School classrooms, hallways and playgrounds to be intervention points for kids with asthma

December 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 14, 2010 - Teachers and education support professionals are about to get the information they need to help the growing number of students in America who have childhood asthma - one of the most common chronic diseases among children. Today, the National Education Association (NEA), the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) and the Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. (MCAN) are launching a free online training program that will educate the 3.2 million members of NEA on how to help students better manage their asthma while at school. The online training can be accessed at www.neaacademy.org and is also available to other members of the school community such as parents, principals, superintendents, and facility managers.

Nationwide estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that asthma is present in every school across the country, likely affecting three children per classroom of thirty students. (1) A closer look at available community-level data indicates that some communities carry an even heavier burden, with up to 40 percent of children living with asthma in some areas. (2) The condition, which is largely manageable, accounts for children missing nearly 13 million school days each year (3) and costs the nation $10 billion in indirect costs related to school absenteeism and missed workdays for caregivers. (4)

"When we give teachers and other school professionals resources to support student learning, everyone benefits," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "I am proud that NEA, MCAN, and the NEA Health Information Network are partnering in this way to increase awareness about asthma and asthma management."

The online course, Managing Asthma in the School Environment, provides teachers, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, and other school staff with essential information about the condition, allowing them to be better prepared to help students manage their asthma while at school. It includes an overview of asthma including its causes; signs and symptoms; tips for controlling and treating asthma; and, strategies for creating asthma-friendly schools. Additionally, it provides suggested changes that can be made to reduce triggers in school environments, such as removing upholstered furniture and ensuring good indoor environmental quality.

Instructional content in the course stems from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program's Expert Panel Report 3 (5) as well as evidence-based learnings and findings from on-the-ground programs and other research on childhood asthma. (6) The MCAN-funded Los Angeles Unified School District Comprehensive Asthma Program for example, has successfully trained staff to recognize the symptoms of asthma. Children in the program have experienced a significant reduction in emergency room visits for acute asthma episodes. The program has also been successful in reducing daytime and nighttime symptoms and improving asthma control between baseline and three months.

"When it comes to managing asthma, while the doctor plays a key role, it's also important to train the team of people who care for students with asthma almost every day. That's an effective way to help keep asthma under control," said Floyd Malveaux, Executive Director of MCAN, the only national non-profit organization focused solely on childhood asthma.

"Growing up with asthma can be challenging. Students whose asthma is not under good control may have a tough time participating in physical activity, sleeping through the night, or concentrating during the school day. By helping students manage their asthma they can lead healthy, active lives like everyone else," said Jerry Newberry, NEA HIN Executive Director.
-end-
About MCAN

The Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. (MCAN) is a separately incorporated, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization established to address the complex and growing problem of pediatric asthma. Funded by the Merck Company Foundation and led by Floyd Malveaux, MD, PhD, a nationally recognized expert in asthma and allergic diseases and former Dean of the Howard University College of Medicine, MCAN is specifically focused on enhancing access to quality asthma care and management for children in the United States. For more information visit www.mcanonline.org.

About NEA

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. For more information, please visit www.nea.org.

About NEA HIN

As the non-profit health affiliate of the NEA, the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) provides health and safety information to the 3.2 million educational employees and students it serves. NEA HIN distributes information nationally through NEA's 51 state/territory affiliates as well as 14,000 local education associations. For more information, please visit www.neahin.org.



References


(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Creating Asthma Friendly Schools. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SchoolAsthma/. Accessed on March 15, 2010.

(2) Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental Health. http://matracking.ehs.state.ma.us/Health_Data/Pediatric_Asthma.html. Accessed on March 15, 2010.

(3) Akinbami L. Asthma Prevalence, Health care use and mortality: United States, 2003-05, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2006.

(4) American Lung Association. Asthma and Children Fact Sheet. http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/asthma/resources/facts-and-figures/asthma-children-fact-sheet.html. Accessed on March 15, 2010.

(5) Guidelines of the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel report 3. US DHHS/NHLBI, NIH Publication Number 08-5846. 2008.

(6) Asthma Basics for Schools and Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/lung/asthma/basics_schools/ and http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/lung/asthma/asth_sch.htm. Accessed on April 7, 2010.

The Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc.

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