Targeting Improvements in Asthma Morbidity in Chicago: Education Initiatives

Numerous organizations, community groups, researchers, and medical providers have assumed an active role in addressing the asthma education needs of various sectors in the city heavily impacted by asthma.

School-Based Efforts

Asthma 101, a program of proven benefit that teaches 8- to 11-year-old students how to manage asthma, and Open Airways for Schools (OAS), an asthma awareness program for faculty and school staff, have been utilized by several organizations to increase local, neighborhood capacity for asthma management. These programs were developed by the American Lung Association. Largely through efforts of the ALAMC, Asthma 101 has reached > 12,000 students and OAS has reached > 1,500 school staff in Chicago. Despite medical volunteers and program funding, it has been difficult to integrate this curriculum in the Chicago public schools, the third-largest public school system in the nation, and one in which almost 20% of the students have asthma. With support from The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute, in 2003 the ALAMC initiated a Stakeholders Collaboration to Improve Student Health. This effort aims to create greater access for Chicago public school students to participating organizations and agencies for health-related services. In response to this collaboration with > 200 organizations, access and coordination have greatly increased, allowing for more systematic and successful utilization of programs. The Stakeholders Collaboration is currently performing a project in 15 schools to determine asthma outcomes, including utilization of community services and asthma-related absenteeism.

Open Airways for Schools

Community-Based Efforts

The ALAMC has worked with numerous community organizations to build partnerships and capacity for addressing the asthma problem in Chicago. For example, the success of day and overnight asthma camps is linked to strong local support and involvement. Asthma day camps have garnered aldermanic and local business support. Both day and overnight camps provide children a fun educational experience that empowers them to manage asthma effectively, and they encourage and teach physical activity as an essential feature of living well with asthma. The child participates in at least 1 h of daily asthma education in addition to traditional camp activities. Evaluations over the past 2 years have demonstrated over a 60% increase in competency for taking asthma medications. Read the article about the treatment of childhood asthma here.

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Professional Education

Many organizations provided key asthma education in the professional community. Since its inception, the CAC has hosted 29 quarterly meetings; these typically include one clinical review. Asthma educators at University of Illinois developed asthma focused problem-based learning sessions for primary care providers. The Nursing Assembly of the ALAMC has conducted comprehensive review courses for providers preparing for certification as asthma educators annually since 2003.