Weekly Columns

School-Based Asthma Management Programs Needed to Protect Students with Asthma

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Washington, March 2, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

Did you know that nearly 7 million schoolchildren across the U.S. have asthma? According to the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, students miss 14 million days of school every year because of asthma. As a grandfather, physician and a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I find this statistic staggering. I believe it is my duty to ensure that school staff and administrators have the tools and training necessary to assist students who have asthma so they can receive a quality education despite their diagnosis.

That’s why this week I partnered with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer to introduce the School-Based Asthma Management Plan Act. Both the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services recommend schools have asthma management programs to support children who have asthma, but most schools do not have these management programs in place. The School-Based Asthma Management Plan Act encourages states to help equip schools with school-based asthma management programs and to ensure asthma rescue medications are readily available in schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,080 children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old, or 9.9 percent, currently have asthma. Similarly, 1,761, or 8.6%, children between the ages of 15 and 19 have asthma. 57.9 percent of children 18 and under have reported having one or more asthma attacks. As these statistics show, asthma impacts a huge percentage of school-aged children, and these students deserve to pursue their studies without fear an attack at school won’t be properly treated. 

Protecting students is important to me which is why I also partnered with Rep. Hoyer to draft a bipartisan piece of legislation to create incentives for schools applying for certain health grants if they stock EpiPens in their schools. After a lot of hard bipartisan work, the bill was signed into law by President Obama on November 13, 2013. I worked on this bill because nearly 6 million children in the country have food allergies that can easily become life-threatening with the onset of an anaphylactic reaction. A quarter of anaphylaxis in schools occurs in students who do not know they have a food allergy and do not carry their own EpiPen. Encouraging schools to stock these will bring peace of mind to parents and help students, teachers and school administrators, and I believe the same can be done for students who have asthma.

I hope the School-Based Asthma Management Plan Act will receive the same broad, bipartisan support as our previous effort to help keep students safe from anaphylaxis. I’m proud to report our bill is already being supported by several patient advocacy groups including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the National Association of School Nurses. No family should have to worry their children could be at risk at school because they have asthma, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to get this commonsense bill through Congress.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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