New Grant Helps Grow RHA’s Asthma Program Reach to Youth in Need Across Illinois

Asthma is the number one chronic illness-related reason students in Illinois miss school – adding up to over 313,000 days out of the classroom each year. Working with children and teens to better understand and manage asthma can help them stay in class, prevent attacks and remain healthy.

Asthma program educators

RHA’s asthma program staff will provide training in schools across Illinois.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently awarded Respiratory Health Association a Healthy Community Investments Grant to bring school-based asthma education to more people in Chicago and throughout Illinois. RHA will focus on sharing prevention programs with schools in high need communities across the state during the 2019-20 school year. This focus comes in part from a 2018 RHA report which shows the majority of asthma-related emergency room visits are African American children – at a rate five times higher than white children.

Two National Health Corps (NHC) members and four RHA asthma program staff will work with school administrators and nurses to schedule sessions and deliver the evidence-based Fight Asthma Now© (FAN) program to students. FAN helps students identify and avoid triggers and learn how to manage their medications. Students also receive a free spacer to help medicines work more effectively.

With the new grant funding, RHA will provide training to an additional 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students living with asthma over the course of the school-year. Data from past programs shows that 80% of students will better understand triggers and warning signs of asthma attacks, and the value of long-term medications and spacers. At least 75% of students will say they want to talk with an adult in their home about an Asthma Action Plan and asthma medications.

RHA has delivered FAN to more than 16,000 students in Chicago to date, and has also provided training to health department staff in southern Illinois. Asthma educators serving schools in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, California also received training to support new asthma programs in these areas.

If you are an administrator, nurse, teacher, parent or community member interested in bringing the FAN program to a school near you, please contact Mary Rosenwinkel, Program Coordinator at [email protected] or (312) 628-0227. You can also learn more and submit a request with our online form.

Thank you note from student

Students who participated in the 2018-19 FAN sessions shared thanks with RHA staff.

Thank you note from student

Students who participated in the 2018-19 FAN sessions shared thanks with RHA staff.

RHA to Study Impact of Air Pollution on Public Health in Chicago

All but two of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 1,800 buses run on diesel fuel. Respiratory Health Association knows the health and environmental effects of vehicle pollution in the air and is focused on finding healthier transportation options for Chicago.

This summer, the Joyce Foundation awarded a one-year grant to help RHA explore the impacts of air pollution in communities throughout the city of Chicago. Funds will support a study of how diesel buses affect the lung health of residents and help increase efforts to educate leaders and the public on the potential benefits of electric vehicles.

Traffic at nighit in city

RHA’s study will explore the potential health benefits of using electric buses in place of diesel-powered vehicles.

“We see electric buses as a great opportunity, if not a necessity, for a healthier Chicago,” commented Erica Salem, RHA Senior Director, Strategy, Programs & Policy. “The Joyce Foundation’s generous grant allows us to examine how our city can move toward transportation options that provide cleaner air and healthy lungs for all Chicagoans.”

RHA will work closely with the University of Chicago’s Spatial Data Science and the Chicago Department of Public Health to study the health effect diesel buses have across different Chicago neighborhoods. Teams will compare data of those living with lung diseases who also live near busy bus routes, bus garages or maintenance shops to residents living in lower bus traffic communities.

This work builds on RHA’s efforts to secure Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pledge for cleaner bus options. Chicago lags behind other major US cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have announced plans to move to all electric buses sometime in the next 20 years.

RHA will release a final report in the spring of 2020.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through schools, workplaces and communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and about getting an annual flu shot.

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

Tips for Back to School with Asthma

Asthma causes more missed school days than any other chronic illness, leading to an estimated 13.8 million days missed per year. For children with asthma, heading back to school can be safer and more fun if their parents do a little homework of their own.

It’s important to take the following steps before the school year begins to keep kids healthy in the classroom:

Young woman uses inhaler while in school

Having an inhaler on hand in school is important for kids with asthma.

• If your child experiences frequent asthma symptoms, visit a doctor as soon as possible.

• Make sure your child has a written Asthma Action Plan, and share a copy with the school nurse.

• Help your child practice taking his or her asthma medication, and make sure your child understands how important it is to keep the medicine close by at all times.

• Give consent for your student to carry their inhaler. Call the school or visit the school/district website to find the necessary consent form. Save the prescription label for your child’s asthma medication to provide with the form.

• If possible, keep an extra quick-relief inhaler where needed, whether in the home or at school.

• Talk your child’s teachers to make sure they understand your child’s asthma ‘triggers.’ Make sure teachers can recognize asthma symptoms and know what to do if they happen.

• Remind your children of the importance of general hygiene (hand washing, covering mouth while coughing, etc.) to prevent common cold and flu viruses that can make asthma symptoms worse.

• Make sure your child stays in the routine of taking long-term control medications, if prescribed. Skipping doses can lead to increased symptoms and missed school time.

• Remember to get your child an annual flu shot. Kids with asthma are at increased risk for upper respiratory viral infections, including the flu.

• Ask your school administrators to bring the Respiratory Health Association’s Fight Asthma Now© program to their students with asthma and Asthma Management to school personnel, parents and other caregivers of children with asthma.

Asthma is manageable. With proper planning, medication and awareness, both parents and children can breathe easy this school year.

Lauren’s Helping Kids Breathe Easier

In April 2018, 9–year-old Lauren Wilson shook hands with Senator Daniel Biss and sat down to educate him about a new law being considered in the Illinois legislature – Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools. The legislation allows schools across the state to keep a supply of albuterol on hand to deal with asthma episodes and other respiratory emergencies, similar to how they keep an EpiPen on hand for allergy emergencies. Advocates like Lauren helped get the law passed in May 2018– now, they’re trying to make sure that it gets implemented. For her first persuasive writing assignment in 3rd grade, she wrote a 3-page paper on why they need to use the new law to stock albuterol in her school.

Father, daughter and senator pose during lung health advocacy meeting.

Lauren and father Jeremy meet with Senator Biss

“Why does it take so long?” That’s Lauren’s newest question for Illinois State legislators. For kids living with asthma who rely on medications like albuterol, waiting for the law to take effect impacts their ability to live well. Lauren carries her inhaler in her backpack and keeps a backup with the school nurse, but those medications are specific to Lauren. The new law lets schools keep ‘undesignated’ medication – meaning it is not prescribed to a specific person – that can be administered to anyone in respiratory distress. This is an important fail-safe in case someone runs out of medication, forgets or loses an inhaler or, as often happens, experiences breathing difficulty for the first time and hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Lauren wants her school to be as prepared for an asthma episode as she is. Lauren has been an advocate for those living with asthma for most of her life, which stems from her own experience with respiratory issues. Lauren was in and out of the hospital and emergency care as an infant. “It was the scariest experience of my life,” her father, Jeremy remembers. “When they tell you that you should say goodbye to your child after hearing she has gone into respiratory failure.”

After her respiratory failure at six months old, doctors diagnosed Lauren with reactive airway because she was too young at the time for a full asthma diagnosis. She began treatment at that time. At four years old, her pulmonologist made the expected diagnosis of asthma. Throughout this journey, Lauren’s mom, Stephanie, began researching ways the entire family could be proactive in Lauren’s care. They worked closely with a pediatrician to develop an asthma action plan and watched Lauren’s symptoms to identify her triggers. Stephanie’s research also led her to Respiratory Health Association, and the entire family got involved. Lauren’s last hospitalization came last fall. Her asthma has been mostly under control since, but it always requires careful monitoring. In the meantime, Lauren continues to participate in sports and spend time with her friends. “I feel pretty fine doing sports,” Lauren says. “I usually don’t have triggers with sports, mostly just allergies and colds.”

Stephanie reminds her, “If you really pushed, we’d give you 2 pumps of albuterol for stair climbs.” Lauren is very proud of the collection of medals she has from sports and charity events. “I keep them all around the house,” she says mischievously. “We’ll find them everywhere,” Stephanie confirms. In October 2018 RHA presented her an award for her asthma advocacy efforts. The Next Generation Advocate awards are given to young people who stand up for a future free of lung disease and to protect our clean air. Lauren keeps that award in the front of the house, where everyone can see it.

Youth advocate and policy director pose with award for efforts to support lung health

Lauren and Matt Maloney, RHA Directory, Health Policy during the 2018 awards ceremony

She also has medals for Hustle Chicago, RHA’s stair climb, and the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour, which she participated in as an 18-mile rider the first weekend in August. But there are challenges that come with asthma, summer heat, and physical activity. “We didn’t go out and ride today,” Jeremy mentions. “But she did 9 miles a few days ago.” Before July’s heat wave hit the Midwest, Lauren rode a couple times a week. But as the weather got hotter, the air quality worsened and became unhealthy for people with lung disease. Now that it’s cooled down and air quality has improved, she’s back to good riding conditions. It’s just another thing her parents monitor to help keep her asthma under control.

Jeremy and Stephanie joined Lauren for their 5th year of riding CowaLUNGa. She rode 18 miles on the back of Jeremy’s bike and plans to ride the 18 miles on her own bike next year. With plenty of time to train, she’s ready for the challenge. Lauren proudly describes her bike as blue and silver. “I just learned how to shift gears on it. I went on my first hill recently, and down. That’ll make the hill on the first day not as bad,” she says.

Another milestone she’s ready for?

“She wants that big 20 year trophy,” Jeremy says of the celebratory trophies RHA gives five, 10, 15 and 20 year riders. “And I believe she’ll get it.”

Besides asking her fellow riders to join her in supporting RHA’s advocacy efforts, she offers this advice: “Get out and ride. Wear comfy clothes: bike shorts, gloves and a helmet.” To join The Wilsons in their efforts to fund asthma research, advocacy and education, support their fundraising here.

Governor Signs New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Law Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

Governor Signs New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Law Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2018

CONTACT:
Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Illinois schools are one step closer to creating a safer environment for students living with asthma. Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) was passed by the Illinois Legislature this spring and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 3rd.

Illinois now joins ten other states including Indiana and Missouri in adopting similar policies regarding stock asthma medication. Early results in other states indicate that these policies reduce the need for 911 calls and EMS transports as a result of asthma attacks. Initial data also demonstrate that these policies reach populations of need and improve health outcomes.

Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools—SB3015, now Public Act 100-0726—improves access improves access to life-saving medication by allowing schools to stock ‘undesignated’ asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to administer the medication at the first signs of respiratory distress. This legislation builds on a 2014 Illinois law allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors to protect those who may experience a severe allergy in school.

Across Illinois, more than 330,000 children have reported asthma; however, fewer than twenty-five percent of those children have their asthma under proper control. That means three out of four kids living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

“We applaud our lawmakers for their leadership and for taking this important action which will better equip schools to handle asthma emergencies,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “This new law, which allows schools to stock asthma rescue medication, builds on existing school policies to create a safer environment for all. We look forward to working with all stakeholders on the implementation of this law.”

“Asthma attacks can occur without warning and because of this, children with asthma should always have access to asthma rescue medication (Albuterol). Asthma rescue medication administration in a school setting allows kids to remain in the classroom and avoids costly emergency room visits. Without this medication, the attack often worsens and can become life-threatening,” said Craig E. Batterman, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Southern Illinois University Medicine.

Asthma causes an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn leads to days of work missed by adult caregivers. Asthma-related annual health care costs in Illinois are projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020.

“Illinois has made great strides in helping children with asthma attend school without the fear that their schools will be unprepared for an inevitable asthma attack,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “SB 3015 will help children even more by allowing asthma medication to be kept at the school, similar to EpiPens.”

“Thankfully, administering albuterol has minimal side effects.  By comparison, the consequences of not treating or delaying treatment of a child experiencing respiratory distress can be dangerous. SB 3015 will give schools the ability to quickly respond to asthma emergencies and work with students and families on proper asthma management at school,” said Amy Zimmerman, a Program Director at Legal Council for Health Justice.

Respiratory Health Association and Legal Council for Health Justice worked together to pursue a stock asthma rescue medication policy in Illinois. They published an issue brief assessing the fit and feasibility of stock asthma rescue medication in Illinois schools, which is available for download on Respiratory Health Association’s website resphealth.org.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. The organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org

Legal Council for Health Justice conducts education, outreach, and advocacy to address discrimination, disadvantage, and disparities in health, wealth, and well-being across the lifespan of vulnerable populations. Through our award winning medical-legal partnerships we target people impacted by chronic, disabling and stigmatizing health and social conditions to empower them to lead fulfilling lives, reach their self-determined goals, and secure and plan their futures. For more information visit www.legalcouncil.org.

2018 Guide to RHA’s Asthma Resources

Asthma is a chronic, or lifelong, inflammation of the lungs’ airways. This inflammation, or swelling, makes airways more sensitive to triggers such as pollen, dust, secondhand smoke or pet dander. Exposure to these triggers can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness of the chest and coughing. Asthma affects more than 18 million adults and nearly 6.2 million children.

Scientific discoveries have led to improved treatments, but there is currently no cure for this lifelong disease. Fortunately, most asthma can be managed and controlled with proper medication and education.

Since May is Asthma Awareness Month, we want to highlight the wide range of asthma resources available on RHA’s website for people living with asthma. If you or someone you love is living with asthma, check out some of these key resources:

Living with Asthma – Learn more about different kinds of asthma triggers, medications, and signs of an asthma emergency.  RHA’s asthma education programs for school-aged children and adults provide much of this information. With today’s knowledge and treatments, most people can live normal, active lives and experience few symptoms.

Asthma Action Plans – Every person living with asthma should have an asthma action plan. Asthma action plans are written documents developed by you and your health care provider, listing customized steps to prevent and handle an asthma episode. If you are the parent/guardian of a child with asthma, you should complete an asthma action plan with your child’s health care provider. A copy of this plan should be given to any adult who provides care for your child.

Asthma at School – Asthma is the leading cause of school absence due to chronic illness. An estimated 13.8 million school days are lost per year due to asthma. Sending your child with asthma to school can create concerns for both of you. Learn more about how to prepare to send your child with asthma to school as well as Illinois laws protecting your child’s right to carry an inhaler and what you can expect from your school in regards to asthma management.

What You Need to Know about Asthma – Curious about spacers, nebulizers, or the asthma warning signs? The Asthma section of our library has a wide array of brief, one-page overviews with the most essential information you need to know to understand and manage asthma.

Don’t forget to check in with your doctor and care team regularly to ensure your asthma is under control and you’re following their recommendations. With proper care people living with asthma can lead full and healthy lives.

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 [email protected] 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.

Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2018

CONTACT:
Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

Emergency Department visit rates for African Americans 75% greater than citywide average

CHICAGO – For over a decade, researchers, clinicians and community-based organizations have recognized and worked to address racial disparities in asthma. Chicago has also been identified as an epicenter for asthma, with higher prevalence in minority communities on the city’s west and south sides.

On World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released a new report showing little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma. The report focuses on rates of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits from 2009-2015.

Key Findings Include:

  • African American children accounted for over 63 percent of all asthma-related emergency department visits recorded in 2015.
  • The rate of visits by African Americans remained 75 percent greater than the citywide rate.
  • Asthma-related pediatric ED visits translated to an estimated $18.7 million in health care charges. According to Medical Expenditure Panel data, the average charge for an asthma-related ED visit in Chicago was $2,116. Application of that figure to the 8,848 asthma-related pediatric ED visits in Chicago in 2015 suggests health care charges of more than $18.7 million.
  • Racial disparities led to $6.1 million in preventable health care charges. Had the 2015 rates of ED visits among African American and Latino children been equal to the rate of visits by White children, asthma-related ED charges could have been reduced by nearly $6.1 million.

Download the full report.

“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.”

Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, causing an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn lead to days of work missed by adult caregivers.

In addition to lost educational opportunity and productivity, asthma represents a large financial burden for Chicago. When treated properly, asthma can most often be managed in a primary care, outpatient setting. Since a primary care visit is estimated to cost five times less than an ED visit, improvements in education, care and treatment can significantly reduce the economic burden of asthma.

Respiratory Health Association 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.

“Reducing racial disparities in asthma is one of the top priorities identified in the city’s Healthy Chicago 2.0 agenda. The City of Chicago has made tremendous progress in advancing policy changes that impact asthma outcomes like dramatically reducing youth smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and protecting the environment through innovative sustainability initiatives,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, Julie Morita, MD.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.