Hillemeier, Marianne M., M.E. Gusic, and Y. Bai. 2006. "Rural and urban children with asthma: Are school health services meeting their needs?" Pediatrics, 118(3): 1097-1103.
OBJECTIVE. Children with asthma spend a large portion of their day in school, and the extent to which public schools are prepared to meet their health needs is an important issue. The objective of this study was to identify asthma policies and practices in rural and urban school settings and to compare them with current National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommendations. METHODS. A stratified random sample of school nurses who represented each of the 500 active Pennsylvania school districts were surveyed in 2004 concerning nurse staffing patterns, availability of asthma monitoring and treatment- related equipment, emergency preparedness, availability of asthma- related support and case management services, school- specific procedures including identification of children with asthma and accessibility of inhaler medication during school hours, presence and content of written asthma management plans, and perceived obstacles to asthma management in the school setting. Sampling weights were incorporated into the analyses to take the survey design into account. RESULTS. The overall response rate was 76%, with a total of 757 surveys analyzed. In more than half of secondary schools and three quarters of elementary schools, nurses were present < 40 hours per week. Nearly 1 in 5 schools reported that staff who know what to do for a severe asthma attack were not always available. In 72% of rural schools, children were allowed to self- carry rescue inhalers, as compared with 47% of urban schools. Asthma management plans were on file for only 1 quarter of children with asthma, and important information often was omitted. Approximately half of the schools were equipped with peak flow meters and nebulizers, and spacers were available in 1 third of schools. CONCLUSIONS. Improvements are needed to bring schools into compliance with current recommendations, including more consistent availability of knowledgeable staff, improved access to asthma monitoring and treatment- related equipment, more universal use of asthma management plans, and greater access to inhalers while at school, including increasing the proportion of children who are allowed to carry and self- administer inhaler medication.