Asthma Is A Big Reason School-Based Health Centers Exist

What a difference a day makes.

Rondalyn Everson is the primary care giver for her granddaughter, Khloe Edwards, age 9, who suffers from chronic asthma. Everson, a paraprofessional working at Kennedy Learning Center in Southfield, would have to lose a day of work, while Khloe would lose a day of school whenever Kloe had an asthma attack.

Last year that all changed. Khloe’s school, Adlai Stevenson Elementary School, together with Authority Health, opened a school-based health center. Named in honor of the late Ira Land, a pharmacist and inspiration for many in the Southfield community, the Ira Land Family Health Center has assured Kloe, and her grandmother, that whenever she has difficulty breathing a family nurse practitioner in the health center is prepared to see her immediately. The most she would miss would be a class or two. And Everson would be able to stay at work. Studies have reported that the risk of emergency hospitalization for children with asthma has decreased significantly with the development of school-based health centers like the Ira Land health center.

“I was so excited,” Everson said, when she learned about the Ira Land health center. “She has not been to an emergency room since they established the health center.” When Kloe had less acute problems with her breathing, they would go to a local public health clinic – but that would be a day-long affair.

Chronic asthma is a leading cause of chronic disease-related school absenteeism in the United States, associated with 10 million missed school days annually, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly 20 percent of student absenteeism is attributed to asthma. Even one day absent from school affects student performance in math and other subjects. Poorly controlled asthma over time can have a negative impact on cognitive function and social connectedness at school.

The staff at the Ira Land health center doesn’t wait for Kloe to have an asthma attack. They have developed an asthma action plan that describes how to treat her and how to advise her to prevent attacks. The plan includes education for Kloe to understand when she is having an asthma attack and what to do. Her parents are informed as to which medicines to take and when to take them, and when to call their health provider.

While vacationing in Orlando, Florida, recently, Kloe had an asthma attack. Everson called Christina Kirkwood, the family nurse practitioner working at the Ira Land health center. Kirkwood assessed Kloe’s situation by phone and prescribed medication to calm her breathing.

The Ira Land health center creates a welcoming environment for children, diffusing clinical anxiety, making a visit to the school nurse much more pleasant, Everson said. “Kloe is a shy child and sometimes can come across as a bit withdrawn, like many children who deal with health ailments that impact them in a social way such as asthma. However, what’s nice is that I’ve noticed she has no problem with opening up when she visits the clinic.”

Tonya Hickman, Stevenson principal, says “parents are so thankful (that the Ira Land health center was established). It’s amazing that we have been able to keep her in school. She has a sense of comfort knowing that we can meet her needs.”

“The kids love it there,” said Everson, who is present of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. “It’s a model for other schools. We need more of these.”


About the Ira Land Family Health Center

The Ira Land Family Health Center, sponsored by Authority Health, is located within Adlai Stevenson Elementary School, providing comprehensive health for students and other children and adolescents in the community, ages 5-21. Services include well-child exams and immunizations, as well as health education and resource referrals. Staff is trained in trauma-informed comprehensive pediatric care and includes a behavioral health professional for mental health needs. A local Community Advisory Council, composed of parents, school representatives, local civic leaders, and human service professionals provide oversight for the health center. For more information call 313-824-1000, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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