Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrows the airways. Over 300,000 children in the State of Illinois have asthma. Asthma is controllable when appropriately managed with trigger avoidance and medication. However, for three out of four children living with asthma in Illinois, life with well-controlled asthma is not a reality. Uncontrolled asthma poses a significant health risk that can have negative repercussions on a child’s short-term and long-term quality of life. Children living with uncontrolled asthma often see an increase in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and missed school days.
As a Health Educator with the Respiratory Health Association (RHA), I provide Chicago-area schools with asthma management programs that aim to educate participants on how to manage asthma and help those living with the disease achieve optimal lung function. Many of the students I work with report that the program is the first time that they have received education on the disease and how it affects their overall health. After just two sessions, many of the students that I work with can independently identify the symptoms of an asthma episode and the medication needed to treat one effectively. Educating students on how to use a spacer properly, how to identify asthma-related triggers in their environment, and the importance of taking long-term control medication every day has also shown me the vital role of disease management education in preventative healthcare.
One of the most meaningful aspects of delivering the program over the last sixth months has been watching student’s feelings towards their disease change throughout the program. At the beginning of the program, many students associate their asthma with feelings of intense anxiety and fear. By the end of the program, these feelings often transform into a newfound sense of empowerment and confidence in the idea that they have the tools necessary to advocate for their health. Students often share with me that after participating in the program they feel better equipped to take an active role in managing their asthma. Even after just two out of the three sessions,
Delivering asthma management education as an NHC Chicago health educator has reinforced my belief in community-based health interventions as a transformative tool in health equity. As I begin the second half of my term with NHC Chicago and RHA, I am looking forward to providing asthma management education to more schools in Chicago and empowering children and those that care for them to live healthier lives.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2019-20 member Gabby Towson.
Gabby is a Health Educator at Respiratory Health Association.