Addressing Asthma Disparities

Reducing School Absences for Children with Asthma

By: Jessica Hollenbach, PhD

Asthma is the most common chronic pediatric disease, which affects nearly six million children in the United States. Children from minority groups who live in low socioeconomic urban areas experience the highest rates of asthma and associated concerns. Children with asthma also suffer from higher rates of school absenteeism. While asthma cannot be cured, it can be treated but requires appropriate diagnosis, management and adherence to treatment. School-based programs are an attractive opportunity to augment the care that children with asthma receive. New research highlights the success of our Easy Breathing for Schools program in reducing school absences.

Published in the journal Academic Pediatrics, our study titled “A school nurse-led asthma program reduces absences: Evaluation of Easy Breathing for Schools” describes implementation of a school nurse-led asthma program in Hartford Public Schools and its impact on reducing absences for students during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. The program engaged 288 students with asthma and compared their absences to absentee data from more than 2,100 students with asthma who were not enrolled in the program. We demonstrated that students who participate in Easy Breathing for Schools experienced a 25 percent decrease in absentee rates compared to students with asthma who did not participate in the program. Additionally, program participants demonstrated improvements in inhaler technique. This is particularly encouraging given the unacceptably high rate of incorrect inhaler use that has not improved over the past 40 years.

Easy Breathing for Schools is a school nurse-led asthma program developed by researchers at the Asthma Center at Connecticut Children’s. In designing the program, we solicited feedback from school nurses, parents, and providers. Easy Breathing for Schools seeks to identify students with asthma who are at high risk for adverse outcomes and assist school nurses in better managing those students. Easy Breathing for Schools was designed as an extension of our successful Easy Breathing asthma management program, which helps clinicians provide guideline-based asthma care.

Read additional blogs on asthma here.

We are very encouraged by the results of this study. We hope to continue offering the program in Hartford schools as well as expand to schools in additional communities in Connecticut and around the country.

Jessica Hollenbach, PhD, is co-director of the Asthma Center at Connecticut Children’s.

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