With grant funding from pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingleheim, the SPH, UNTHSC’s Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) and the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) will cooperatively pilot a new children’s asthma management program in two East Fort Worth schools this fall. Working with the school-based clinics at Eastern Hills Elementary and Forest Oak Middle School, the program aims to improve the way children’s asthma is managed both in school and at home.
According to David Sterling, PhD, SPH professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness and most prevalent cause of childhood disability. Of Tarrant County children ages 0‐14, approximately 75,500 have asthma. By age nine, Sterling notes, 25% of the county’s children have been diagnosed with asthma, with a disproportionate number of cases occurring among the county’s African American children.
“Asthma is a growing national problem, contributing to more than 14 million lost school days a year across the U.S.,” Sterling says. “It’s been well documented that children with asthma are absent more often, and excessive school absences are a strong predictor of disrupted learning and premature dropout rates.”
Locally in our community, the problem was brought to light when a Cook Children’s Health Care 2009 Community‐wide Children’s Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS) identified elevated asthma prevalence of approximately 18.59 percent in Tarrant County, a rate double the national average of 9 percent and significantly greater than Texas’ average of 8.8 percent.
This new initiative will focus on educating school-based healthcare providers, teachers and community-based primary care clinicians, as well as young patients, their parents and caregivers. Children will learn to manage their asthma at home and in school, to ultimately reduce school absences, asthma-related 911 calls from schools and resulting emergency visits, school clinic visits, and hospital admissions or readmissions.
It is hoped that this fall’s pilot will be used to launch a self-sustaining program that can be rolled out district‐wide across the FWISD and replicated in other communities in the future.