National School-Based Health Center Asthma Learning Collaborative Wraps Up

With support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RAMP has been working to increase the engagement of school-based health centers (SBHCs) in the environmental management of asthma. Recognizing that SBHCs are already leaders in the clinical management of asthma (leading to decreases in ED visits, hospitalizations, and school absences), we saw an opportunity for them to also be leaders in the integration of environmental management into a comprehensive approach to asthma.

After creating tools like the Asthma Environmental Intervention Guide for School-Based Health Centers and case studies of SBHCs that are already leading environmental change, we launched two, year-long learning collaboratives, providing stipends to fourteen SBHCs across the country to implement small-scale environmental interventions. In partnership with the California School-Based Health Alliance, we provided technical assistance and peer learning opportunities and are documenting their successes and lessons learned. Here are just a few examples of SBHC staff success stories:

  • In Hempstead, NY, Gina Galante educated high school students with asthma and trained them to do home environmental assessments. Based on the results of their assessments, she conducted tailored education and provided them with products to help reduce triggers (such as gel baits for cockroaches, mattress covers to protect against dust mites, or cleaning products that don’t contain harmful chemicals). Not only did they improve their home environments, but they have learned to be advocates for healthy environments.
  • In Carson, CA, Betty Franco worked with bus drivers to reduce idling near the school and school-based health centers. Not only did the bus drivers agree to stop idling—once they understood the health impacts—but they also requested training on how to respond to an asthma emergency, proving that it truly takes a village to address the problem of asthma.
  • In Milwaukee, WI, Rita Higgins conducted classroom assessments and educated both students and teachers about ways to reduce environmental asthma triggers. The teachers felt they could implement changes before the end of the school year, and could continue the changes in the next school year. Examples include requesting more regular vacuuming if their room has carpet or carpet squares, removing clutter from sink areas and being aware of any stale or musty smells, and keeping a regular schedule for blind/curtain dusting or cleaning. The changes they achieved will have a lasting impact for years to come.
  • In Cincinnati, OH, Dan Hargraves worked with medical students to educate middle school students about asthma with a particular emphasis on the impact of scented personal products. Building the partnership with the medical school demonstrated a way to have a big impact with limited finances. Evaluation activities showed a change in knowledge and behaviors.

As we continued our work with SBHCs, we’ll document lessons learned and develop practical tips for SBHCs. We’ll also develop case studies of several of the SBHCs that participated in our learning collaboratives and will feature some of them on an upcoming webinar, hosted by the national School-Based Health Alliance, on August 24th. Stay tuned for details!