One of the trickiest things for children with asthma and allergies is to manage staying healthy during the school year.
Ragweed allergies in the fall, cold and flu issues in the winter and pollen allergies in the springtime can make it that much tougher to make it through full days of school for long stretches, especially if there’s a limit on sick days or you’re leery of amassing make-up work.
What’s more, having asthma – as some 24 million Americans and six million children under the age of 18 do – can mean dealing with symptoms year-round, further burdening these students.
As a result (and due to a majority of schools throughout the country lacking an asthma management and treatment program), asthma symptoms are the leading cause of school absenteeism, accounting for 13.8 million missed days annually.
On March 2, 2016, Congressmen David P. Roe (R-Tennessee) and Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) introduced legislation to address this problem, in the form of H.R. 4662 – the School-Based Asthma Management Program Act. A vote on the legislation has yet to be scheduled and in the interim Allergy & Asthma Network, a non-profit organization advocating for people with allergies and asthma, has focused extensively on efforts to see that it is signed into law.
Asthma- Related Grants
In an advocate brief pertaining to the bill, the organization explains that, “H.R. 4662 amends the Public Health Service Act to increase the preference given, in awarding certain asthma-related grants, to states that allow trained school personnel to administer asthma related quick-relief medications, and for other purposes.”
The brief goes on to highlight that in 1991, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DOE) published a guide for management of asthma at school. According to Allergy & Asthma Network, the guide recommended that all schools “have School-Based Asthma Management Programs (SAMPROs) in place and have on file an individualized asthma action plan (AAP) for each student with asthma.”
In the past 25 years, U.S. schools have come up short implementing these recommendations, necessitating bills such as H.R. 4662. Regarding some of the bill’s more specific details, Allergy & Asthma Network said, “H.R. 4662 would add additional provisions to the criteria for states to receive federal asthma grant preference:
- Stock asthma-related quick-relief medications, asthma-related devices (e.g., holding chambers and nebulizers) and educational materials.
- Implement an asthma action plan for students with an asthma diagnosis to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.
- Provide asthma education for school staff (e.g., asthma basics, asthma management, trigger management, and comprehensive emergency responses to asthma attacks).
- Coordinate care and improve communication among schools, family members and primary care providers.
SEE ALSO: Pediatric Asthma
The brief also points out that H.R. 4662 does not authorize new funding, but leverages existing federal asthma grants in an attempt to encourage and promote improved school-based management of asthma.
In addition to Allergy & Asthma Network, H.R. 4662 has been endorsed by:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
National Association of School Nurses
American Academy of Pediatrics
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
Following the Network’s 19th annual Allergy & Asthma Day Capitol Hill (AADCH) on May 12, the bill has 40 co-sponsors and bipartisan support.
While an ultimate decision on the bill waits in the wings and with many members of both the House and Senate occupied with matters of state and reelection, Allergy & Asthma Network encourages those interested in advocating on behalf of this legislation to visit AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org/advocacy.
Tamer Abouras is on staff at ADVANCE.