Cape Girardeau schools to get nearly $200,000 for asthma initiative

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Cape Girardeau School District will have nearly $200,000 to use over the next four years to help students with asthma.

The Missouri Foundation for Health announced that it has awarded the district $183,679 to implement the American Lung Association's Open Airways for Schools initiative, a program that targets children 8 to 11 years old who have been diagnosed with asthma.

The program will bring together the association, students in the respiratory therapy program at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, teachers and students.

The major aspects of the program, said Matthew Kuhlenbeck, program officer for the Missouri Foundation for Health, will be to train teachers and other school personnel to identify possible cases of asthma, Each student will have an asthma action plan to identify both school- and home-based triggers for asthma attacks.

The in-home components include evaluations to identify sources of irritation that can lead to asthma attacks, such as pet dander, secondhand smoke or dust, he said.

"Our measures of success are decreased absenteeism, which will lead to better academic performance," Kuhlenbeck said. "We also want to make sure that each child with asthma has a comprehensive health plan."

According to information on the foundation's website, asthma is the No. 1 chronic illness among children, responsible for more emergency room visits and missed days of school than any other single cause. Providing education to the students can help them identify what causes attacks, the website says. Linking parents, teachers and health-care providers can better manage symptoms among asthmatic children.

The grant is part of the foundation's Childhood Asthma Linkages in Missouri program, which has distributed about $7 million over the last two years in grants to schools, hospitals and other organizations.

Over the 47-month life of the grant, it will only pay for direct services, not salaries, in the district, Kuhlenbeck said.

While the foundation does not require that the program continue after the grant expires, there is an expectation that the effort won't be abandoned after the money is gone, Kuhlenbeck said.

"We work with the district and the partners to create a sustainability model, to make sure this is a community-based approach after the grant," he said. "We do everything we can during the time we are working with the grantees to make sure it is there after the grant ends.

Deena Ring, the special services coordinator for the district, was not available Monday to discuss the district's plan for using the money.


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