Asthma 411 works to help children breathe easier

By Katie Shanklin

Asthma 411 Web

From school and work absences to school funding, asthma affects much more than just an individual’s ability to breathe.

Asthma affects 5.1 million children in the United States. According to the Cook Children’s Community Needs Assessment, 19% of children ages 5-14 in the area have been diagnosed with asthma at some time in their lives. Nearly one in three African American children in this age group has been diagnosed with asthma.

Asthma 411, an evidence-based program to improve health and education outcomes and address disparities, has looked at school absences and found that children with asthma are absent about two days more than children without asthma. This asthma-associated attendance gap is approximately two times larger among African American students and those from economically disadvantaged families than other students.

Each day a student is absent increases academic risk. School absences also reduce school resources, because funding is based on daily attendance. This disproportionately impacts schools with higher proportions of low-income and minority students because these students are at greater risk for poor asthma control.

“The majority of drivers of asthma disparities come from social determinants of health,” said Leslie Allsopp, PhD, MSN, MPH, Asthma 411 Program Manager and Assistant Professor at HSC. “To make an impact, there is a need for cross-sector approaches and community collaboration for change.”

Asthma 411 was first developed, implemented, and evaluated as part of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Controlling Asthma in American Cities” initiative between 2003 and 2008. In 2013, it was adapted and piloted in two area schools. Since then, Asthma 411 has expanded to include 11 school districts across Tarrant County with approximately 250,000 students. The initiative, delivered by a consortium of community partners, builds on nearly 20 years of experience in school asthma programs, and is continually updated to incorporate best practices in asthma education and services.

There are three major components to the program:  

  • Assure every student has access to asthma medication at school. 
  • Provide asthma self-management education and professional development through community outreach and awareness. 
  • Improve links to resources and health services. 

 Moving forward, the program will continue to work closely with schools and parents to address asthma disparities. The first step is to implement organizational health literacy strategies to better equip families with the information and resources needed to manage asthma better.

“In May, we used Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month to work with local schools to educate students and families about the importance of asthma management and lung health” said Clara Ramirez, Project Coordinator for Asthma 411. The inaugural Breathe with Ease Art Contest encouraged students to submit artwork based on the theme “Healthy Lungs Start with Me.” The goal was to inspire students to think of things they can do to keep their lungs healthy.

The winners were featured on Asthma 411’s Facebook page. Ramirez presented the winners with prizes and reminded them of the importance of lung health.

The program plans to continue efforts to reach schools and implement new activities and services The goal is to engage students and assure all families have the resources and information needed to control asthma and minimize its impact on children’s health and education.

“It’s important that we work as a community to bridge gaps so all children have the tools they need to breathe better,” Allsopp said. 

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