RHA’s Asthma Programs Empower Children to Live Better Lives

In Illinois, more than 330,000 children have asthma, but less than 25 percent of those children have their asthma under proper control.

That means three out of four children living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits, hospitalizations and school absences.

The Importance of Asthma Self-management

One way to improve the quality of life for children with asthma is to teach them self-management. Asthma self-management reduces inappropriate urgent care and hospital usage, improves health outcomes and decreases health care costs.

Asthma self-management includes:

  • Properly identifying your asthma symptoms
  • Identifying and avoiding your personal asthma triggers
  • Using proper inhaler techniques

Despite the benefits of learning self-management, only five percent of children with asthma in Illinois have ever taken an asthma education course; 43.5 percent have an asthma action plan in place; and 47.1 percent were advised to change their environment to help control asthma.

Addressing the Gap in Asthma Education

To address this gap in asthma education, RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© for school-aged children and an accompanying Asthma Management program for their adult caregivers.

These free programs better arm children and their adult caregivers with the knowledge they need to control the disease, thereby reducing asthma emergencies and improving their quality of life.

“It’s important for communities to have access to this education because so many people need information and don’t know where to go until kids are in crisis,” said Ms. Wilson, the grandmother of a student at John Hay Elementary Community Academy in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.

Why Fight Asthma Now© is Effective

RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management to meet the specific needs of Chicago’s diverse communities, with focus on serving the communities of highest need.

Based on guidelines from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP), both programs were developed with input from pediatricians, respiratory therapists, community educators and parents of children with asthma.

The programs include culturally appropriate visual, auditory and experiential learning through diagrams and photographs, demonstrations, group discussion and individual reflection.

All students who participate in Fight Asthma Now© receive a free workbook, which includes an asthma action plan and a free holding chamber courtesy of Monaghan Medical Corporation. Holding chambers increase the effectiveness of metered dose inhalers by allowing more medication to enter the lungs. Proper holding chamber technique is also demonstrated in each Fight Asthma Now© session.

Ms. Wilson said that the program empowered her grandchild to share asthma experiences with classmates and let them know “they don’t have to be afraid.”

The Impact of RHA’s Asthma Education Programs

To date, more than 15,000 students have been reached with Fight Asthma Now© and more than 33,000 adult caregivers have been educated through RHA’s Asthma Management throughout Chicagoland. The success of the programs in Chicago recently led to adoption by the Los Angeles Unified School District and select schools in Washington D.C.

All students and adult caregivers participate in pre- and post-evaluation to assess knowledge gain. Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management participants have all demonstrated improved knowledge in asthma management including greater knowledge of medication adherence, utilizing asthma devices and environmental triggers.

Asthma emergencies can be prevented when children living with asthma and their caregivers know how to properly use prescribed asthma medications, implement trigger avoidance strategies and recognize warning signs.

For more information about Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management, contact Amy O’Rourke, Director of Programs, via email at aorourke@resphealth.org or by phone at (312) 628-0217.

Respiratory Health Association Unveils New Asthma Research at World Asthma Day Press Conference

On May 1, also known as World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released new asthma research showing that despite over a decade of efforts from researchers, health care providers and community organizations, there has been little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma.

Of all the asthma-related emergency department visits by Chicago children in 2015, a staggering 63% were African American children. The rate of visits among African Americans was 75% greater than the citywide rate.

RHA announced the new findings at a press conference held with partners from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools.

The press conference was covered by CBS 2, WBBM News Radio and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

“It is clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities in asthma,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Respiratory Health Association. “Poorly managed asthma leads to missed school days, reduced health outcomes and overall lost opportunities. No child should fall behind because of a manageable condition like asthma.”

After the press event, RHA convened the Chicago Children’s Asthma Summit, bringing together research, education, community and public health leaders working to address pediatric asthma.

RHA is calling for more research into trends in asthma; better data tracking of asthma prevalence and demographics; broadened support of community-based asthma programming to promote asthma management; and additional collaboration between research, practice and policy partners as initial steps to close the gap in racial disparities among children with asthma.

If you’d like support our work providing critical asthma services to Chicago children, consider joining our Lung Health Partners monthly giving program.