An innovative pilot program to help schools manage students’ asthma has yielded dramatic, positive results in Fort Worth, Texas, where an approach called Asthma 411 was first introduced during the 2013-2014 school year.
[Photo: Dr. David Sterling (left) and the University of North Texas Health Science Center Asthma 411 team]
Asthma 411 gives participating Fort Worth Independent School District nurses the equipment, training, and medical clearance to treat students’ asthma attacks within schools, and processes to identify at risk students and improve asthma management, keeping children from missing class, parents from missing work and helping to reduce costly trips to emergency rooms.
Dr. David Sterling, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health (UNTHSC), led the team that developed Asthma 411 at Saint Louis University, then brought the model to Fort Worth.
After joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 2008, he discovered that close to 25 percent of Fort Worth children had asthma, as compared to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing about 8.6 percent of children with asthma in the United States.
“Of the many risk factors for asthma, we have all of them in Fort Worth,” Dr. Sterling said.
There are three key factors that contribute to Fort Worth’s high asthma rates, he said:
“A program like Asthma 411 is essential in Fort Worth and other major metropolitan areas where the percentage of children who have asthma is roughly triple the national average,” Dr. Sterling said.
“Nationally, asthma contributes to more than 14 million lost school days each year. Excessive school absences are a strong predictor of premature dropout rates and can severely impact keeping kids in school,” he noted. Excessive school absences are a well-documented risk for poor academic outcomes, which in turn are associated with lifelong adverse health outcomes.
Since introducing the program, asthma-related student absences at the participating schools have dropped 51 percent and the number of emergency calls from participating schools has been almost eliminated.
School nurses who have parental consent are now able to provide albuterol treatment, thanks to nebulizers donated by one of the program’s community partners, Cook Children’s Medical Center.
Through another community partner, JPS Health Network, a blanket physician order has facilitated treatment. In combination with education from the school nurse, this helps parents who face barriers to healthcare and medications and links them to community resources and support.
Community collaborations and grants from pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim helped to fund the program.
“It is hoped, based on the success of this pilot, that all schools in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, as well as children’s afterschool care facilities, will adopt the program in the future,” Dr. Sterling said.
A second phase of the program is planned to offer more resources and supplies for families, to help improve the indoor conditions of their homes, offer more education, provide direct links for medication and improve overall asthma management.