Illinois Passes New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Legislation Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2018

CONTACT:
Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Illinois Passes New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Legislation Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

CHICAGO – Illinois schools are one step closer to creating a safer environment for students living with asthma. Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) passed the Illinois House on Friday, May 25. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously in April.

Since 2001, Illinois students have been allowed to carry asthma medications in school. SB 3015 addresses asthma emergencies that occur when a family is unable to afford a child’s rescue medication, when those medications are left at home, when they run out or are simply unattainable.

Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) improves access to life-saving medication by allowing schools to stock ‘undesignated’ asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to administer the medication at the first signs of respiratory distress. This legislation builds on a 2014 Illinois law allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors to protect those who may experience a severe allergy in school.

Across Illinois, more than 330,000 children have reported asthma; however, fewer than twenty-five percent of those children have their asthma under proper control. That means three out of four kids living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

Children from minority and low-income households are even more likely to face barriers in access to medication and other asthma management resources, which in turn can lead to poorly controlled asthma and emergency department visits. Indeed, emergency department visits for asthma in Illinois occur among African American children at nearly six times the rate of visits by White children.

“The current rules allowing students to self-carry and self-administer asthma medications are good first steps,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “The new legislation, which allows schools to stock asthma rescue medication, builds on existing school policies to create a safer environment for all.”

“Asthma attacks can occur without warning and because of this, children with asthma should always have access to asthma rescue medication (Albuterol). Asthma rescue medication administration in a school setting allows kids to remain in the classroom and avoids costly emergency room visits. Without this medication, the attack often worsens and can become life-threatening,” said Craig E. Batterman, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Southern Illinois University Medicine.

Asthma causes an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn lead to days of work missed by adult caregivers. Asthma medical costs in Illinois are projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020.

“Illinois has made great strides in helping children with asthma attend school without the fear that their schools will be unprepared for an inevitable asthma attack,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “SB 3015 will help children even more by allowing backup inhalers to be kept at the school, similar to EpiPens.”

Ten other states have adopted similar policies, including Indiana and Missouri. Early results indicate that these policies reduce the need for 911 calls and EMS transports as a result of asthma attacks. Initial data also demonstrate that these policies reach populations of need and improve health outcomes.

“Thankfully, administering albuterol has minimal side effects.  By comparison, the consequences of not treating or delaying treatment of a child experiencing respiratory distress can be dangerous. SB 3015 will give schools the ability to quickly respond to asthma emergencies and work with students and families to ensure ongoing proper asthma management at school,” said Amy Zimmerman, a Program Director at Legal Council for Health Justice.

Respiratory Health Association and Legal Council for Health Justice worked together to propose a stock asthma rescue medication policy in Illinois. They recently published an issue brief assessing the fit and feasibility of stock asthma rescue medication in Illinois schools, which is available for download on Respiratory Health Association’s website lungchicago.org.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. The organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

Legal Council for Health Justice conducts education, outreach, and advocacy to address discrimination, disadvantage, and disparities in health, wealth, and well-being across the lifespan of vulnerable populations. Through our award winning medical-legal partnerships we target people impacted by chronic, disabling and stigmatizing health and social conditions to empower them to lead fulfilling lives, reach their self-determined goals, and secure and plan their futures. For more information visit www.legalcouncil.org.

2018 Guide to RHA’s Asthma Resources

Asthma is a chronic, or lifelong, inflammation of the lungs’ airways. This inflammation, or swelling, makes airways more sensitive to triggers such as pollen, dust, secondhand smoke or pet dander. Exposure to these triggers can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness of the chest and coughing. Asthma affects more than 18 million adults and nearly 6.2 million children.

Scientific discoveries have led to improved treatments, but there is currently no cure for this lifelong disease. Fortunately, most asthma can be managed and controlled with proper medication and education.

Since May is Asthma Awareness Month, we want to highlight the wide range of asthma resources available on RHA’s website for people living with asthma. If you or someone you love is living with asthma, check out some of these key resources:

Living with Asthma – Learn more about different kinds of asthma triggers, medications, and signs of an asthma emergency.  RHA’s asthma education programs for school-aged children and adults provide much of this information. With today’s knowledge and treatments, most people can live normal, active lives and experience few symptoms.

Asthma Action Plans – Every person living with asthma should have an asthma action plan. Asthma action plans are written documents developed by you and your health care provider, listing customized steps to prevent and handle an asthma episode. If you are the parent/guardian of a child with asthma, you should complete an asthma action plan with your child’s health care provider. A copy of this plan should be given to any adult who provides care for your child.

Asthma at School – Asthma is the leading cause of school absence due to chronic illness. An estimated 13.8 million school days are lost per year due to asthma. Sending your child with asthma to school can create concerns for both of you. Learn more about how to prepare to send your child with asthma to school as well as Illinois laws protecting your child’s right to carry an inhaler and what you can expect from your school in regards to asthma management.

What You Need to Know about Asthma – Curious about spacers, nebulizers, or the asthma warning signs? The Asthma section of our library has a wide array of brief, one-page overviews with the most essential information you need to know to understand and manage asthma.

Don’t forget to check in with your doctor and care team regularly to ensure your asthma is under control and you’re following their recommendations. With proper care people living with asthma can lead full and healthy lives.

RHA’s Asthma Programs Empower Children to Live Better Lives

In Illinois, more than 330,000 children have asthma, but less than 25 percent of those children have their asthma under proper control.

That means three out of four children living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits, hospitalizations and school absences.

The Importance of Asthma Self-management

One way to improve the quality of life for children with asthma is to teach them self-management. Asthma self-management reduces inappropriate urgent care and hospital usage, improves health outcomes and decreases health care costs.

Asthma self-management includes:

  • Properly identifying your asthma symptoms
  • Identifying and avoiding your personal asthma triggers
  • Using proper inhaler techniques

Despite the benefits of learning self-management, only five percent of children with asthma in Illinois have ever taken an asthma education course; 43.5 percent have an asthma action plan in place; and 47.1 percent were advised to change their environment to help control asthma.

Addressing the Gap in Asthma Education

To address this gap in asthma education, RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© for school-aged children and an accompanying Asthma Management program for their adult caregivers.

These free programs better arm children and their adult caregivers with the knowledge they need to control the disease, thereby reducing asthma emergencies and improving their quality of life.

“It’s important for communities to have access to this education because so many people need information and don’t know where to go until kids are in crisis,” said Ms. Wilson, the grandmother of a student at John Hay Elementary Community Academy in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.

Why Fight Asthma Now© is Effective

RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management to meet the specific needs of Chicago’s diverse communities, with focus on serving the communities of highest need.

Based on guidelines from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP), both programs were developed with input from pediatricians, respiratory therapists, community educators and parents of children with asthma.

The programs include culturally appropriate visual, auditory and experiential learning through diagrams and photographs, demonstrations, group discussion and individual reflection.

All students who participate in Fight Asthma Now© receive a free workbook, which includes an asthma action plan and a free holding chamber courtesy of Monaghan Medical Corporation. Holding chambers increase the effectiveness of metered dose inhalers by allowing more medication to enter the lungs. Proper holding chamber technique is also demonstrated in each Fight Asthma Now© session.

Ms. Wilson said that the program empowered her grandchild to share asthma experiences with classmates and let them know “they don’t have to be afraid.”

The Impact of RHA’s Asthma Education Programs

To date, more than 15,000 students have been reached with Fight Asthma Now© and more than 33,000 adult caregivers have been educated through RHA’s Asthma Management throughout Chicagoland. The success of the programs in Chicago recently led to adoption by the Los Angeles Unified School District and select schools in Washington D.C.

All students and adult caregivers participate in pre- and post-evaluation to assess knowledge gain. Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management participants have all demonstrated improved knowledge in asthma management including greater knowledge of medication adherence, utilizing asthma devices and environmental triggers.

Asthma emergencies can be prevented when children living with asthma and their caregivers know how to properly use prescribed asthma medications, implement trigger avoidance strategies and recognize warning signs.

For more information about Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management, contact Amy O’Rourke, Director of Programs, via email at aorourke@lungchicago.org or by phone at (312) 628-0217.

Respiratory Health Association Unveils New Asthma Research at World Asthma Day Press Conference

On May 1, also known as World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released new asthma research showing that despite over a decade of efforts from researchers, health care providers and community organizations, there has been little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma.

Of all the asthma-related emergency department visits by Chicago children in 2015, a staggering 63% were African American children. The rate of visits among African Americans was 75% greater than the citywide rate.

RHA announced the new findings at a press conference held with partners from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools.

The press conference was covered by CBS 2, WBBM News Radio and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

“It is clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities in asthma,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Respiratory Health Association. “Poorly managed asthma leads to missed school days, reduced health outcomes and overall lost opportunities. No child should fall behind because of a manageable condition like asthma.”

After the press event, RHA convened the Chicago Children’s Asthma Summit, bringing together research, education, community and public health leaders working to address pediatric asthma.

RHA is calling for more research into trends in asthma; better data tracking of asthma prevalence and demographics; broadened support of community-based asthma programming to promote asthma management; and additional collaboration between research, practice and policy partners as initial steps to close the gap in racial disparities among children with asthma.

If you’d like support our work providing critical asthma services to Chicago children, consider joining our Lung Health Partners monthly giving program.

Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2018

CONTACT:
Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

Emergency Department visit rates for African Americans 75% greater than citywide average

CHICAGO – For over a decade, researchers, clinicians and community-based organizations have recognized and worked to address racial disparities in asthma. Chicago has also been identified as an epicenter for asthma, with higher prevalence in minority communities on the city’s west and south sides.

On World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released a new report showing little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma. The report focuses on rates of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits from 2009-2015.

Key Findings Include:

  • African American children accounted for over 63 percent of all asthma-related emergency department visits recorded in 2015.
  • The rate of visits by African Americans remained 75 percent greater than the citywide rate.
  • Asthma-related pediatric ED visits translated to an estimated $18.7 million in health care charges. According to Medical Expenditure Panel data, the average charge for an asthma-related ED visit in Chicago was $2,116. Application of that figure to the 8,848 asthma-related pediatric ED visits in Chicago in 2015 suggests health care charges of more than $18.7 million.
  • Racial disparities led to $6.1 million in preventable health care charges. Had the 2015 rates of ED visits among African American and Latino children been equal to the rate of visits by White children, asthma-related ED charges could have been reduced by nearly $6.1 million.

Download the full report.

“It is clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities in asthma,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Respiratory Health Association. “Poorly managed asthma leads to missed school days, reduced health outcomes and overall lost opportunities. No child should fall behind because of a manageable condition like asthma.”

Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, causing an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn lead to days of work missed by adult caregivers.

In addition to lost educational opportunity and productivity, asthma represents a large financial burden for Chicago. When treated properly, asthma can most often be managed in a primary care, outpatient setting. Since a primary care visit is estimated to cost five times less than an ED visit, improvements in education, care and treatment can significantly reduce the economic burden of asthma.

Respiratory Health Association is calling for more research into trends in asthma; better data tracking of asthma prevalence and demographics; broadened support of community-based asthma programming to promote asthma management; and additional collaboration between research, practice and policy partners as initial steps to close the gap in racial disparities among children with asthma.

“Reducing racial disparities in asthma is one of the top priorities identified in the city’s Healthy Chicago 2.0 agenda. The City of Chicago has made tremendous progress in advancing policy changes that impact asthma outcomes like dramatically reducing youth smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and protecting the environment through innovative sustainability initiatives,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, Julie Morita, MD.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

New Asthma Legislation Aims to Protect Students

Across Illinois more than 330,000 children have reported asthma; however, less than twenty-five percent of those children have their asthma under proper control. That means three out of four kids living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

New Asthma Legislation

A proposed law “Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools” (SB3015) improves access to life-saving medication by allowing schools to stock undesignated asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to administer the medications at the first signs of respiratory distress.

“While current rules allowing students to self-carry and self-administer asthma medications are good first steps, those policies don’t help if a student faces barriers to obtaining medications or simply forgets his or her medication at home,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “Allowing schools to stock asthma rescue medication builds on and fills a gap in existing school policies to create a safer environment for all.”

The Burden of AsthmaYoung boy taking an inhaler with a spacer or holding chamber attached

Children from minority and low-income households are even more likely to face barriers in access to medication and other asthma management resources that can lead to poorly controlled asthma and avoidable emergency department visits. Indeed, emergency department visits for asthma in Illinois occur among African American children at nearly six times the rate of visits by White children.

Asthma causes an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn leads to days of work missed by adult caregivers. Reliance on emergency care for asthma treatment also contributes to the growing economic burden of asthma in Illinois, which is expected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020.

“Administering asthma rescue medication has minimal side effects and this simple act has the potential not only to save lives but significantly reduce the economic burden of asthma in Illinois as well,” continued Africk.

How We Know This Legislation Works

Ten other states have adopted similar policies, including Indiana and Missouri. Early results indicate that these policies reduce the need for 911 calls and EMS transports as a result of asthma attacks. Initial data also demonstrate that these policies reach populations of need and improve health outcomes.

To ensure any potential stock asthma rescue medication in schools policy would be both evidence-based and informed by practical experience from the field, in the fall of 2017 we worked the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Legal Council for Health Justice to form an advisory group of school and health experts to discuss the possibility of a similar policy in Illinois. This advisory group considered the policies adopted in other states and explored a variety of Illinois policy implementation considerations.

Our review of the ten existing stock asthma rescue medication state policies yielded important lessons for Illinois healthcare, public health and school stakeholders to consider moving forward. One key finding: in Illinois the existing Stock Undesignated Epinephrine Auto-injector policy provides a tested framework for implementation of Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools.

Based on the research led by RHA and our partners, legislation to allow Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB3015) was introduced in the Illinois Senate by State Senator David Koehler.

SB 3015 passed Illinois Senate Education Committee by unanimous vote on April 17. A full senate vote will take place in the coming weeks. We recommend that upon passage of a stock asthma rescue medication policy, IDPH and ISBE convene an implementation workgroup that can work through the details of this life saving policy.

RHA stands ready to assist in this effort.

To learn more about the need and feasibility of stock asthma rescue mediation in Illinois schools, download the issue brief we produced with Legal Council for Health Justice.

The Night that Fuels Nicole’s Fight Against Asthma

Nicole Brown was at home when her one-year-old baby Nicholas began to cry. As hours passed and nothing soothed him, Nicole knew that it was time to call the doctor.

A team of two doctors and a nurse quickly realized that Nicholas was struggling to breathe. They began breathing treatments, checked his pulse, and recommended transferring him to a nearby hospital.

After a final breathing treatment, Nicole left for the hospital. “We just made it,” she describes. There, the doctors and nurses uncovered what Nicholas had been trying to tell them – his left lung had collapsed.

Doctors observed him around the clock, unsure what caused the collapse. The possibility of infectious disease meant Nicole wasn’t able to hug or physically comfort her son.

Woman holding baby in hospital with mask and gown on

Nicole holding Nicholas in the PICU

The PICU moved Nicholas to an isolated room to reduce the threat posed by possible infections. The doctors, nurses and Nicole all wore paper gowns and masks whenever they stepped inside.

With protective garments in place, Nicole was allowed to hold Nicholas again – but only while doctors worked to remove the mucus accumulating in his lungs. Nicholas tried to scream, but couldn’t due to his weak breath. Tears streamed down his face as Nicole held him.

“It was awful. I didn’t want him to hurt, but I knew that I needed to keep him still for the doctors to help him,” recalls Nicole.

Tests soon revealed that Nicholas was not infectious and had responded well to the breathing treatments and the suction from his lungs. The doctors were surprised by how quickly Nicholas’ condition improved and finally arrived at his true diagnosis – asthma, a chronic condition that would have to be managed for the rest of his life.

That was eight years ago. Today Nicole, an engineer at Exelon, is preparing to climb her fifth Hustle Up the Hancock and training five times a week. Her son’s asthma and mother’s COPD are at the forefront of her mind.

Boy smiling in a school photo

Nick in a recent school photo

“Nicholas’ asthma has definitely changed my perspective. I grew up with my parents smoking and I thought it was fine.  I also didn’t know that there are different inhalers– maintenance, preventative and rescue.” Nicholas now takes his maintenance inhaler twice a day. His rescue inhaler is there for him when he needs it.

Nicole hopes to have her son waiting for her at the top of the Hancock.

“I think about the people I’m doing it for, knowing that they can’t physically do what I’m doing. That helps push me more.”

Join us and support those affected by asthma and COPD. Donate to Nicole’s climb here.