Bronx, NY – Standing at the Children’s Aid Society Health Center, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Mike Blake, families, advocates and educators discussed her fight for new measures to ensure schools prepare for and prevent asthma attacks. The Bronx currently struggles with one of the highest asthma rates in the country, and poses as a potentially underlying health risk for other diseases. Gillibrand introduced the School Asthma Management Plan Act to ensure schools are equipped to respond to asthma attacks and are working to help prevent them from happening. The measure would provide funding for schools to train staff to identify and respond to student asthma attacks, and purchase medication and equipment to improve classroom air quality. Senator Gillibrand succeeded in passing language from the measure as a part of the major education bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, that the Senate passed last month and will now work to ensure it is in the final version that passes the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the New York State Department of Health approximately 34,000 New York State children were hospitalized for asthma attacks between 2011 and 2013. Every year, asthma causes students across the country to miss a total of 10.5 million school days.
“As asthma rates across New York and the country rise, we have to make sure our schools have the resources to prepare for and prevent asthma attacks,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Approximately 36,000 Bronx children suffer from this chronic disease, so the place where they spend so much of their time – our schools – must be ready. This legislation will make sure schools have the resources to meet our students’ needs.”
“My borough is grateful to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her ongoing commitment to the health of New Yorkers and to my Borough, and for her School Asthma Management Plan Act. This law will provide students suffering from asthma proper help by improving the communication between their schools and their physicians, and will help improve the quality of lives of those suffering from asthma and their families,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I welcome Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to combat this disease by promoting legislation that will help our most vulnerable population, our children. We are fortunate to have her commitment as a partner to improve health outcomes in The Bronx.”
“I commend Senator Gillibrand for introducing the School Asthma Management Plan Act in an effort to ensure our schools are prepared, informed and equipped to prevent asthma and respond to asthma attacks,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “With so many children being affected by asthma every year, I know for a fact that schools in my district and throughout the Bronx will benefit tremendously from these resources.”
“I am honored to welcome Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to the 79th District of The Bronx today at the Children’s Aid Society as she announced the details of the School Asthma Emergency Management Plan Act,” said State Assemblyman Mike Blake. “Nearly half a million children in New York State are affected by asthma and more than 38,000 children in The Bronx have asthma, causing thousands of hospitalizations and missed school days every year. This legislation will allow schools to apply for grants to develop and implement school asthma management plans, purchase asthma medications and devices, and improve communication and coordination between schools and physicians. The School Asthma Emergency Management Plan Act is imperative for equipping schools to effectively prevent and respond to asthma attacks, ensuring the safety and health of our children.”
“I applaud Senator Gillibrand for introducing the School Asthma Management Plan Act,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, President and Co-founder of Children’s Health Fund. “Asthma is a treatable, manageable condition – if it’s diagnosed early and treated properly, including getting treatment in school if needed. Dr. Redlener added” When children are unable to receive their medication in a timely manner, absenteeism rates skyrocket. Or, if they’re up coughing during the night from uncontrolled disease, they come to school too exhausted to learn. Pediatricians, teachers and parents working together, supported by the School Asthma Management Act, can make a real difference by ensuring that all children are healthy and ready to learn.”
“In the Bronx, we have one of the highest rates of asthma in the United States, with hospitalization rates as much as five times higher than the national average," said Dr. David Perlstein, Chief Medical Officer, St. Barnabas Hospital Health System, and a pediatrician. "In some of our neighborhoods, an estimated 20% of the children have asthma. The school asthma management plan introduced by Senator Gillibrand has the potential to make a huge impact on the health of the children in our community.”
“The American Lung Association thanks Senator Gillibrand for her continued advocacy on behalf of children with asthma in New York and across the country,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “The School Asthma Management Plan Act will provide students with safer environments in which to learn; educators who are better equipped to assist students with asthma; and, most importantly, children who have better control of their asthma.”
“Asthma is more than just a health issue. The disproportionate incidence and prevalence of asthma among families living in poverty disrupts lives,” said Dianne Morales, Executive Director of Phipps Neighborhoods. “Too often, asthma negatively affects the education achievement of our children who are forced to miss school, and the economic stability of households who must resort to emergency rooms for treatment. We need to do better for our children, our families and our communities and this bill is a solid step in the right direction.
“Too often asthmatic children are missing school days and parents, many of whom do not have paid time off, have to miss work; this should not be the case,” said Dr. Steven M. Safyer, M.D., President and CEO, Montefiore Health System. “We proudly support Senator Gillibrand and legislation that will ensure schools are better equipped to meet the needs of children with asthma so they can feel better, learn better and have a clearer pathway to a positive future. At Montefiore, we have found that elementary school children with asthma who attended schools with a Montefiore clinic had a 50 percent reduction in asthma related hospitalizations and a three day per year improvement in attendance, compared with asthmatic children in schools without a Montefiore clinic.”
“The evidence couldn’t be clearer that asthma can have devastating consequences not just on children’s health but on their ability to succeed in school and life,” said Phoebe Boyer, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. “Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will have a tremendous impact on the South Bronx and many other communities in New York City and across the nation where asthma is a major obstacle to children’s well-being and to developing healthy school communities.”
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects as many as 25 million adults and youth across the country. In the last 10 years, the proportion of people with asthma in the United States grew by nearly 15 percent. However, funding for the Centers for Disease Control National Asthma Control Program has been reduced, eliminating resources for schools to prepare for and address potential asthma attacks.
The School Asthma Management Plan Act, introduced with Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Bob Casey (D-PA), would establish grants for schools to coordinate responses to asthma-related medical emergencies, access to life-saving medication and the equipment to help prevent attacks, including air filters, to improve classroom air quality. Language from this legislation was included in the Senate-passed bill to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The legislation would allow school districts to use federal block grant funding to:
- Develop and Implement School Asthma Management Plans. Grant funds could be used to develop plans based on national guidelines that include methods for identifying all students with asthma diagnoses, implementing asthma education for all staff, providing access to medication and methods to administer medication for all affected students, and developing medication and emergency policies specific to each school.
- Purchase Asthma Medications and Devices. Grant funds could be used to purchase asthma inhalers, asthma education materials, and other supplies necessary for the relief and treatment of affected students.
- Improve Communication and Coordination. Schools that receive grants could encourage communication between schools and physicians, and improve adherence to asthma treatment by students.
All school districts would be eligible to receive the grants, and funding would be allocated based on school districts’ share of low income students, who often have higher rates of asthma.