Why Use the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative

The Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative is an effective, comprehensive approach that aligns with the CDC’s Coordinated School Health model.

Kids and Asthma

Asthma affects an estimated 24.6 million Americans, including 7.1 million children under 18. School populations face a host of issues directly related to asthma: potential asthma emergencies, absenteeism, student and teacher productivity, health office visits, and access to life-saving medications, to name just a few.

In addition:

  • Asthma affects an estimated 24.6 million Americans, including 7.1 million children under 18.
  • Asthma accounted for 10.5 million lost school days in 2008 and is a leading cause of school absenteeism attributed to chronic conditions.
  • In 2009, 5.5% of children with asthma (4.1 million) had at least one asthma attack in the preceding year.
  • In 2005, there were an estimated 679,000 emergency department visits by children under 15 with a diagnosis of asthma.

In many cases, schools are not prepared to manage these issues, resulting in a school environment that may actually worsen an individual’s asthma and inhibit students’ learning. The goal of the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative is to help schools achieve their main goal—the education of students.

An Effective School Asthma Management Program

Success Stories

Asthma is a chronic condition that can be life-threatening if not properly managed, yet asthma can be controlled with proper diagnosis, appropriate asthma care and management activities. Children with well-managed asthma should live normal, active lives. Management of asthma in children must involve a coordinated effort by medical providers, families and schools. Effective school asthma management may improve not only individuals’ asthma management but also a community-wide response to this growing public health issue.

The strategies and materials presented in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative will help schools implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Strategies for Addressing Asthma within a Coordinated School Health Program. The key components to effective school asthma management include attention to the following principles:

  • Health & Mental Health Services—Individuals with asthma must have appropriate and immediate access to healthcare. Within the school, this includes access to trained school health services staff with required resources, Asthma Action Plans, existence of medical emergency protocols, immediate access to prescribed medications, and referrals as needed to community and medical resources.
  • Asthma Education—Education efforts increase knowledge among students with asthma, classmates of students with asthma, parents, and school staff about asthma and their roles in its management.
  • Healthy Environments—Managing air quality is critical to asthma management in schools. Students and school staff who spend their days in a healthy environment with well-managed facilities and air quality should suffer fewer asthma episodes and other short- and long-term health effects from environmental causes. Schools should manage indoor air quality (IAQ) and implement a procedure for managing students’ exposure on high outdoor air pollution days.
  • Physical Education and Activity—Students with asthma can participate fully in physical activity when they are symptom-free, but they may need to make modifications when their asthma is not fully controlled. School staff must be prepared to work with students individually to ensure their ability to participate and to provide appropriate physical activity when needed.