Students at Aloma, Brookshire, Hungerford, and Lakemont elementary schools have been participating in the American Lung Association’s Open Airways for Schools program this school year, learning how to manage their asthma so they can stay healthy, active and in school.
Next school year, four additional elementary schools—Audubon Park, Cheney, Dommerich and Lake Sybelia—will have access to the program.
With nearly one in 10 children in Florida suffering from asthma, the American Lung Association of the Southeast (ALASE) provides the program to local students to help them better control their chronic illness. The programs offered to students in the eight schools in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville—mentioned above—are supported with a $9,624 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).
Designed for children ages 8-11, Open Airways for Schools (OAS) includes six 40-minute group lessons for children with asthma. The sessions, led by trained volunteers, cover basic information about the disease, how to recognize and manage symptoms, how to use medication, how to avoid asthma triggers, getting enough exercise and how to succeed academically.
The overall goals are to boost asthma self-management skills, decrease asthma emergencies and raise asthma awareness among parents and guardians.
This year 27 students participated and completed the program at Aloma, Brookshire, Hungerford, and Lakemont, said Lynn Penyak, Health Promotions Manager, American Lung Association in Florida.
“Students have been engaged with hands-on activities and experiences learning how to identify what causes their asthma symptoms to worsen, how to properly take their prescribed medication, and what critical, life-saving steps to take in an emergency situation,” she said. “Upon completion, the students celebrated their newly acquired knowledge with a culminating party, being declared ‘asthma experts.’”
Facilitators say the program is making a difference in the lives of asthmatic students. “I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the tools I have given these children will help save their lives,” said Justin Lynn, RRT, a program facilitator. “I have seen them (students) grow not only in wisdom and knowledge, but in confidence – a confidence that offers them the ability to not only lead a full, unhindered childhood but also gain success in life, simply by acquiring these fundamental principles for managing their disease.”
Tori Sheahan, Nurse Practitioner at the Student Health Center at Glenridge Middle School, and Coordinator of the School Nursing Initiative in Winter Park Consortium Schools, is also pleased with the program’s impact.
“The efficacy of the program is absolutely proven to be the gold standard so we can be confident that we are making a positive impact on the lives of our asthmatic students,” she said. “Improving their asthma management improves their quality of life and their school attendance, which is of course a goal of the Coordinated Youth Initiative (CYI) programs.”
(CYI is a collection of free, school-based health and wellness programs supported by the WPHF and offered in 12 Winter Park Consortium Schools, including Winter Park High School and its elementary and middle feeder schools. All programs are based on the belief that Healthy Kids Make Better Students.)
Click here to learn more about CYI.
For more information about Open Airways, click here.