Principal Ora Beard knew something was wrong.
His teacher thought he was being silly – falling out of his chair, closing his eyes and dropping his head down. In a classroom full of rambunctious elementary school children, it was easy to misunderstand what was going on with this little boy. But when Principal Ora Beard visited the class on her rounds of the Detroit school, she could see in his eyes that something was wrong. She walked over to him, and he barely whispered “I can’t breathe.”
He was in the throes of an asthma attack. Suffering from asthma herself, Principal Beard recognized the condition, but teachers generally aren’t trained to spot medical issues like this one. And that’s a problem. In Detroit, asthma rates in children are 20%, about double the national average. That means in a school with 500 children, 100 will have asthma.
The Children’s Health Fund project in Detroit has been tackling this epidemic with innovative tactics. This year it launched a new asthma initiative, funded in part by Molina Healthcare. A central feature of this initiative is restoring school nurses to four of the schools that the Detroit project visits regularly.
The recommended ratio for school nurses to students is 1 for 750. In Detroit, the current ratio has fallen to 1 in 5,000. The new school nurses aren’t just addressing this gap – they work as an integral part of the Detroit mobile medical team that visits weekly.
At school, the nurses engage children with untreated or poorly managed asthma and schedule a visit with the doctor on the mobile clinic. Then the nurse can follow up and check that the child is taking the medication regularly.
Children in America miss 10 million school days a year due to asthma, and high absenteeism reduces a child’s odds of graduating. By getting their asthma under control, Children’s Health Fund is not only sparing children suffering – we’re helping to keep kids on the path to academic success.