Sustainable Jersey: School nurses take on asthma in Trenton providing needed link between healthcare, school and home

Posted on by Renee Haider, Associate Director, Sustainable Jersey

Trenton Public School- School Nurses 2017

With 13 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools, the nurses of the Trenton Public Schools have their hands full.

Despite the daily challenges, Micah Freeman, the Supervisor of Nurses for the Trenton Public School District, decided to take action and worked with the school nurses to target asthma in the district. Freeman said “Well, I added ‘achieving the Six Steps of the Asthma Friendly School’ to my list of goals for the year. Basically, we want to keep the kids healthy and keep them in school and this issue needed attention.”

Asthma is a chronic disease in which airway inflammation makes breathing difficult when a person is exposed to one or more triggers. It is a serious condition with no cure that needs on-going medical care and patient education, in order to manage asthma both at home and in school or at work. Schools play a major role in keeping children with asthma safe, healthy and actively involved in everyday activities, such as sports. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program includes addressing asthma as one of the 87 actions that schools do to achieve points toward certification across.

The New Jersey Department of Health’s analysis of asthma-related emergency department visits by municipality showed that Trenton’s rate was 3.8 times the state average and accounted for 76 percent of Mercer County’s asthma emergency department visits, although Trenton residents comprise only 23 percent of the county’s population. Asthma affects all races, ages and genders. But, blacks, Hispanics and urban residents are more likely to be affected with asthma symptoms, as are individuals with a family history of the disease.

Trenton School District Receives Asthma Friendly School Award

After a year of hard work, the school district was honored with the Asthma Friendly School Award in recognition of the district’s efforts to enhance the quality of education for students and staff that face the challenges of asthma. As part of this commitment to excellence, all 24 school locations completed the six steps toward establishing an asthma friendly school environment and have become part of the nearly 15 percent of schools in New Jersey to qualify for the award. Twenty-six of the schools that have received the Asthma Friendly School Award have also achieved the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification designation including all eight schools from the School District of Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic County) and 13 schools from the Wayne Township School District (Passaic County).

The Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey, a project of the American Lung Association in New Jersey provides the award. The coalition develops educational programs that build a partnership with students, staff, physicians and families to work as a team to manage asthma in the school setting. The Trenton Public Schools, led by the school nurses, completed the educational programs and took a proactive approach to implementing a program on indoor air quality by establishing an Indoor Air Quality Team in their school, as well as signing the No Idling Pledge for school buses in an effort to reduce pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks. Taking these steps can lead to a reduction in school absenteeism as well as a decrease in the number of asthma episodes. There are six steps to qualify for the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey   Asthma Friendly School Award, read more: Six Steps.

Micah Freeman is also leading Trenton School District’s application to become certified with Sustainable Jersey for Schools. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification action called Asthma Friendly School models the six steps of the Asthma Friendly School Award. Freeman clarified that her asthma training and education did not just focus on nurses and teachers, it included the whole staff and especially the custodians. She is proud of the complementary new policy that was developed, the Trenton Board of Education Green and Healthy Schools Cleaning Policy, as cleaning chemicals can be a trigger for asthma.

We applaud the efforts of the Trenton School District and the nurses who worked hard to influence change in their community.  They now have a proactive response to asthma in the schools rather than a reactive response and this will make a difference with health and wellness for the whole community.

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