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UA-Led School Asthma Program Receives National Recognition

The UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is leading a program that provides inhalers in K-12 schools.

Accepting Innovations in Health Equality

Dr. Lynn Gerald (center) of the College of Public Health and Donna Bryson (left) of the American Lung Association of Tucson accept the Innovations in Health Equality award, presented by Dr. Patricia Finn (right), president of the American Thoracic Society at the ATS International Conference in San Diego, Calif. in May. Photo by Steve Schneider ©2014 American Thoracic Society

A school-based asthma program led by the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson is receiving national attention.

The program provides standing orders that allow schools to stock albuterol and administer it to students who have asthma but who have not brought personal inhalers to school with them. It was implemented in the Sunnyside Unified School District, which consists of 22 schools that serve pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We expect that the stock albuterol program and standing orders will reduce asthma related morbidity outcomes such as 911 calls due to asthma, the number of children sent home due to asthma, asthma related absences and class time missed due to time spent in the health office for asthma symptoms,” said Lynn B. Gerald, PhD, MSPH, the Canyon Ranch Endowed Chair and professor of health promotion sciences at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

The American Thoracic Society has honored the college, the school district and the American Lung Association of Tucson with the Innovations in Health Equality award. The award highlights and supports individuals and programs that aim to reduce the differences in the quality of health and health care across different populations.

As the associate director for clinical and health outcomes sciences at the Arizona Respiratory Center, Dr. Gerald and a team of collaborators from the school district and the lung association received the award for the clinically focused initiative, “Implementation and Evaluation of a Stock Albuterol Policy for a Low-Income Minority School District.”

Gerald notes that 87 percent of the district’s population is Hispanic or Latino, 4.1 percent Native American, 2.4 percent black and 0.5 percent Asian. Further, among children under the age of 12, 28.3 percent live in poverty with 57.5 percent living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The research team is collecting data on the number of administrations of stock albuterol versus personal supply. In-depth interviews are being conducted with a sample of the students who use the stock inhaler and with their parents to determine reasons for use, perceptions of the program, and barriers to having a personal inhaler at school. In addition, each district nurse is being interviewed to gather information on how the stock inhaler was used as well as perceptions of the program.

The University of Arizona