Children ages 8 to 11 can learn how to better manage their own asthma when they participate in the American Lung Association's award-winning Open Airways For Schools® program (OAS). It is a proven and effective evidence-based program offered to elementary children in the school, community and youth serving organization settings. Watch the video above to learn why it’s important to offer this program in your school or organization from the perspective of children, parents, school health professionals and administrators, and how you can become a facilitator and bring this valuable program to your community.

About Open Airways For Schools

The American Lung Association, federal agencies and other asthma experts all recognize that asthma self-management education is an important part of improving asthma morbidity and mortality among children with asthma. Furthermore, the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends school-based asthma self-management interventions to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits among children and adolescents with asthma.

Open Airways for Schools® (OAS) is a program that educates and empowers children ages 8 to 11 through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management. The program teaches children with asthma how to detect the warning signs of asthma, avoid their triggers and make decisions about their health.

Children who complete OAS can:

  • Take steps to prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Recognize the symptoms of asthma when they first occur and carry out appropriate management steps.
  • Discuss and solve asthma-related problems with parents, medical professionals, teachers and friends.
  • Feel more confident about taking care of their asthma daily.

OAS was developed more than three decades ago by researchers at Columbia University in collaboration with the American Lung Association. The goal was a program designed for delivery in schools because that is the surest way to reach all children, regardless of their family situation or access to health care. The initial study was conducted with a diverse group of 239 children from 12 elementary schools in parts of New York City where the rates of severe asthma were unusually high. Children who completed the program took more steps to manage their asthma, improved their school performance, and had fewer and less severe asthma episodes. Parents of children participating in OAS reported taking more steps to help manage their children’s asthma. And the school environment became more supportive: children without asthma were more willing to help children with asthma, and children with asthma were able to support one another.

OAS is led by American Lung Association-trained facilitator. Most often, OAS facilitators are school nurses, but can be other school personnel, parents, community volunteers or anyone with an asthma background interested in working with children.

The OAS curriculum includes easy-to-use teaching materials including a detailed curriculum guide, posters and activity handouts. Each lesson also includes materials for the children to take home and share with their parents. All curriculum materials are available in English and Spanish.

Proven Results

The American Lung Association, the National Asthma Education Prevention Program (NAEPP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other asthma experts all have recognized that asthma management education is an important part of making schools asthma-friendly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all schools provide asthma education programs for students and school staff.

The program has been recommended by the National Association of School Nurses and honored with a Health Education Research Award from the NAEPP. The CDC recognizes the program as very effective for childhood asthma management.

Open Airways for Schools® is the most widely recognized asthma management program for children in the nation. Since its introduction more than three decades ago, OAS has reached hundreds of thousands of children with asthma in more than 40,000 elementary schools across the country.

OAS has been evaluated and proven effective. Evaluation studies done by different researchers over the years all show that children who participate in OAS:

  • Have fewer and less severe asthma flare-ups
  • Improve their academic performance
  • Have more confidence in their ability to take steps to manage their asthma
  • Exert greater influence on their parents’ asthma management decisions
  • Because the OAS curriculum and materials are complete, easy-to-use and include standardized training for facilitators, the quality and consistency of the program remains high.
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Fewer asthma emergencies
  • Improved classroom performance
  • Increased student participation in physical activity
  • Low-cost, complete, and ready-to-use program materials and training
  • Access to the resources and support of the American Lung Association
  • Increased asthma knowledge and self-confidence (for parents or children)
  • Improved communication about asthma with child and with school
  • Fewer asthma emergencies to navigate for their child
  • Improved classroom performance for their child
  • Increased child participation in physical activity
  • Flexibility in class offering: built into the school day, part of after-school programming, or offered in camps

How to Start Your Own OAS Program

The American Lung Association offers a robust training experience and all the materials that adults or organizations need to facilitate OAS. The registration fee is $400 and includes:

  • Asthma Basics (online module)
  • OAS Facilitator Training (online module)
  • OAS Skills Building session with ALA staff (in-person or virtual)
  • Three-year certification with an option to recertify
  • Facilitator Demonstration Device Toolkit
  • OAS Curriculum (Curriculum Guide, Poster Book, Child and Parent Handouts)
  • Access to the OAS Facilitator Resource Center (online)
  • Facilitator engagement and networking opportunities

Watch this video from an Open Airways For Schools® facilitator on why the program is so important to young asthma sufferers.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: May 24, 2023

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