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School Program Helps Cut Asthma Risks

Urban teens seem to benefit at a time when they're starting to control their own care,,

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A school-based asthma management program can help children and teens reduce their symptoms and the number of missed school days, a study conducted in a California school district shows.

Researchers analyzed the effectiveness of a program called Kickin' Asthma, a four-session curriculum developed by American Lung Association staff and nurses and peer educators from the Oakland Unified School District. The program provides students with information and tools to better manage their asthma, such as teaching them about triggers and telling them when and how to take their medication.

Program participation was voluntary, but students who completed the program during the first two years of the study were given a small incentive. About 990 students in grades 7 to 10 from 15 middle schools and three high schools took part in the program.

The program achieved measurable improvements in asthma symptoms and correct medication use and a reduction in the rate of asthma occurrence during the first three years. Days for which participants had activity limited or missed school were reduced by a half-day for every four weeks of the program. During the first two years of the program, there was a significant decline in the number of students who reported outpatient emergency care or hospitalization for asthma. Frequency of daytime symptoms also declined during the program's first three years.

The study was published in the Journal of School Health.

"This study demonstrates how schools can play an important role in the health and safety of children and adolescents coping with asthma," study author Sheryl Magzamen, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin, said in a foundation news release. "We found that Kickin' Asthma is a good strategy for educating adolescents about their disease and helping them to take more control over it."

Almost 6.8 million (10 percent) of American children have asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood asthma is most common in urban areas.

"The Kickin' Asthma program is specifically designed for an urban population and addresses the problem in children and adolescents during a potentially critical time, when they are starting to have more control over their own asthma care," Adam Davis, director of programs and research at the American Lung Association of California, said in the news release.

More information

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has more about childhood asthma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, Dec. 2, 2008

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