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Summer, 2011

NACI Partner Profile

School Nurses Help Golden State Students Breathe More Easily

School nurses aren’t just the focus of this spring’s American School Health Association webinar: They’re a primary audience for Raymond Kohl, teacher advisor and grant manager with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Nursing Services Asthma Program.

“Some 63,000 of 600,000 students enrolled in the LAUSD have asthma, and it not only affects their health—it impacts their education,” says Kohl. “Even if they’re in school, their asthma can be distracting—like a hippo sitting on their chest. That’s why it’s important that LAUSD’s 550 school nurses have available to them both asthma training and tools to assist them in helping their students.”

As one of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program’s (NAEPP) 13 NACI Demonstration Projects, LAUSD used NACI funding to help launch the Enhanced Strategies for Schools (ESS) project. The project seeks to strengthen links among students, families, providers, and schools by using Web-based trainings and user-friendly tools to increase understanding of asthma symptoms and control.

The launch of one of these Web-based trainings—with continuing education credits for school nurses—is Kohl’s most recent endeavor. It will be available on the LAUSD Asthma L.A. Web site  by September 2011.

“It’s not always just training; sometimes it’s a matter of awareness,” said Kohl. “A 2010 school survey in California revealed a low percentage of asthma action plans in use, and anecdotal evidence from our case managers confirmed this.”

Increasing awareness of the importance of an asthma action plan, and thereby its use, is a key focus for the ESS. That’s why these plans and other tools are profiled in the new online training, alongside basics about the disease and other useful pointers, such as proper use of a spacer.

Because school nurses can serve as a bridge to parents and others, this type of training is valuable for educating an even greater number of people about asthma. For example, the LAUSD Nursing Services Asthma Program is also encouraging better communication between physical education (PE) teachers and school nurses on asthma and other issues. 

“One of our findings with PE teachers is that they [not the school nurse] will receive a note from a student’s doctor that says ‘No PE’ because of asthma,” said Kohl. “We encourage them to share this note with their school nurse, so that the nurse can reach out to the doctor for specifics.”

Another way in which LAUSD is making sure that no student with asthma slips through the net, is by offering an ongoing case-management program, as well as a mobile asthma treatment program known as the Breathmobile®.

Launched in 1995 by the California Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the Breathmobile is a vehicle that travels to schools to offer asthma diagnosis, comprehensive treatment, and ongoing management services to students with asthma. It returns to each school site every 6–8 weeks, allowing students with asthma to have regular follow-up visits to assess and monitor their asthma control, as recommended by the NAEPP clinical practice guidelines for asthma (EPR-3).

The Breathmobile has been such a success at helping students use their medications and decrease their school absences that there are now four units visiting 100 schools, helping some 3,000 students breathe more easily. 

Read more about the Breathmobile and other LAUSD efforts on the Asthma L.A. Web site. You also can find other helpful tools and strategies for managing asthma in schools on the NACI’s Schools and Childcare Web page.

Last Updated July 2011

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