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University Hospitals, Willson School partner on asthma help



Asthma can be a massive drain on schools, causing children to miss class, lose energy and, in extreme cases, end up in the hospital. The illness can be deadly but it's also treatable, which is why University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital is stepping in to help at a CMSD school.
A new program at Willson School, which has partnered with UH on a range of health projects, will help treat students who suffer from asthma and educate their families on how to make changes to their environments and lifestyles to reduce the likelihood of asthma attacks. The program, which is expected to begin later this month and last three years, will address the issue in school and in students’ homes. 
Medical personnel will work for two years with children who suffer from asthma, assessing and monitoring severity and control of the illness. UH will also enlist the help of Environmental Health Watch, a nonprofit organization that helps prevent and reduce exposure to harmful substances that cause or aggravate serious health conditions. EHW will visit the homes of children with asthma and recommend ways that parents can make their homes healthier places for their kids, which could include using a dehumidifier, removing carpeting or cleaning damp areas regularly to prevent mold spores.
“We’ll be able to help identify what triggers students’ asthma attacks and help parents deal with those triggers both at home and in school so that we can have the kids in the classroom more often,” Willson Principal Dawn Hayden said.
Lessons learned from the program will help other CMSD schools collaborate with families and healthcare providers to manage students' asthma. 

The program is funded by a $70,000 grant that the hospital received from the Ohio Department of Health’s School Asthma program and is led by Dr. Kristie Ross, a physician in UH Rainbow’s nationally ranked Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, according to a news release. It will consist of one year of planning and two years of implementation. UH will also assemble a committee of teachers, school staff, community health workers, parent representatives and clinical professionals to help guide the program.


Asthma is the leading chronic disease in American children, affecting 7 million children and leading to an estimated 13 million days of school missed each year, according to the hospital. African-American and Puerto Rican children and those living in low-income neighborhoods have higher rates of asthma and greater likelihood of uncontrolled asthma.

Left untreated, asthma can be deadly, with 3,651 people dying from asthma-related causes in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

CMSD Director of Health and Nursing Services Deborah Aloshen said she can recall several District students who died due to asthma in the past few years. Often, children don't get the help they need until they have a severe attack and end up in the hospital. She hopes that this program will give children access to medical care that will improve their health and quality of life.
“Getting kids the treatment they need isn’t a short-term fix,” Aloshen said. “It’s a long-term solution that will keep them in school and out of the emergency room.” 
She also hopes children will learn how to identify signs of an asthma attack and what to do when it happens.
"We don't want children to be scared of asthma. We want them to know what they're dealing with," she said. 

Willson physical education teacher John Dorotics said he has seen the devastating impacts of asthma on his students, including a child who recently spent a week in the hospital due to a severe asthma attack.

“It just goes to show how serious it can be if left untreated,” he said. “There are likely many others who have asthma but haven’t been diagnosed because their families don’t have the resources.”

The school has already identified more than 40 students who have been diagnosed with asthma.

Dorotics said the program is one of many ways Willson is prioritizing the health of students and the community. The school has a monthly food bank and recently received a $100,000 fitness center, available for public use, from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils. 

Willson parents and guardians can learn more about the asthma program at an educational seminar at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the school, 1126 Ansel Road. The school will provide a voucher for transportation to and from the event as well as free childcare and healthy snacks during the meeting. Parents and guardians are asked to RSVP by Friday, Feb. 17 by calling Dorotics at 216-920-1205.