NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 7, 2006

Schools in Pennsylvania are not meeting the needs of students with asthma, nor are they fully prepared to deal with student asthma attacks, according to a new study in September's Pediatrics.

The authors at Penn State University say the subject is important because asthma is the leading health-related reason children miss school or athletics. It affects one of every eight children 17 years old or younger.

The authors surveyed 757 schools in Pennsylvania in 2004.  They found:

  • One-fifth did not always have adults on hand who know what to do for a severe asthma attack, and more than half of the state's urban schools did not allow students to carry inhalers.
  • More than 90 percent had nurses' offices with inhalers on hand to give to students, while 72 percent of rural schools and 47 percent of urban schools allowed students to carry their own inhalers; three schools reported having no inhalers on the premises.
  • About two-thirds of secondary schools and three-fourths of elementary schools had nurses on campus for less than 40 hours a week, although many schools train other adults on how to respond to asthma attacks.
  • An emergency response plan was in place at more than 90 percent of schools and about two-thirds had a rapid response link to emergency responders; however, less than one-fourth of schools had support services for children with asthma and one-third provided case management.
  • In addition, most school nurses reported at least one instance of having discovered a student's asthma only when he or she showed up with symptoms.

Given tight school budgets, the authors said there are ways schools can improve their asthma management at little cost.

Source: Associated Press, "Study: Pa. Schools Fail Students With Asthma,", September 5, 2006; based upon: Marianne M. Hillemeier, Maryellen E. Gusic and Yu Bai, "Rural and Urban Children With Asthma: Are School Health Services Meeting Their Needs?" Pediatrics, Vol. 118, No. 3, September 2006.

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