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RESCUE program reduced student absenteeism for acute asthma symptoms

A school-based program that supplied equipment and medications to treat acute asthma symptoms reduced the rate of ED visits and asthma-related absenteeism from schools in Missouri, according to results presented at the 2016 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Following the passage of Missouri House Bill 1188 in 2012 – which established procedures for a school nurse or other licensed professionals to administer asthma-related rescue medications –  the St. Louis Chapter of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America implemented the Resources for Every School Confronting Unexpected Emergencies (RESCUE) program.

Intended to support school nurses by providing free supplies to handle asthma emergencies in the school setting, the program also required that nurses in participating schools maintain a log tracking the frequency of equipment use and patient outcomes, including whether students returned to class, were sent to the ED, or were sent home.

“Asthma disproportionately affects students from lower-income areas,” Manoj Warrier, MD, from the division of allergy and immunology at St. Louis University, and colleagues wrote. “The RESCUE program mainly supports schools with lower-income populations. Participating schools were provided with nebulizer, chambers and supplies along with access to free albuterol.”

To determine outcomes of program participants, the researchers examined school nurse logs from the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

In the 2013-2014 school year, Warrier and colleagues observed that 90 participating schools used the equipment 1,357 times: 86% of the students returned to class, 11% were sent home and 1% were sent to the ED. In comparison, in the 2014-2015 school year, the researchers found that among 124 participating schools, the equipment was used 1,720 individual times, with 84.48% of students returning to class, 10.81% sent home and 3.14% sent to the ED.

According to surveyed logs, the RESCUE program was effective in reducing school absenteeism due to asthma symptoms and also reduced the need for ED visits among these students.

Additionally, the researchers noted that this program decreased the economic costs to parents while improving student health as well as academic performance, especially in schools serving lower-income populations.

“Schools that implemented the RESCUE program had great success in being able to send kids back to class,” Warrier said in a press release. “Getting kids back to class rather than sending them home or to the ED creates improved health for our students and better academic performances, a win-win.”– by Bob Stott

Krieger J, et al. Abstract #P122. Presented at: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting; Nov. 11-14, 2016; San Francisco.

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