Closing the gap: "Building Bridges" for better asthma care

High rates of absenteeism adversely affect a child’s ability to learn and reach their full potential. Asthma is the number one chronic illness that causes absenteeism in elementary schools. About 36,000 kids miss school each day in the US for asthma-related reasons.  Children with asthma miss 3 times more school days and have a 2.7-fold increased risk having a learning disability compared with well children.

High rates of absenteeism adversely affect a child’s ability to learn and reach their full potential. Asthma is the number one chronic illness that causes absenteeism in elementary schools. About 36,000 kids miss school each day in the US for asthma-related reasons.  Children with asthma miss 3 times more school days and have a 2.7-fold increased risk having a learning disability compared with well children.

On May 19, I was privileged to join top asthma bloggers, patient advocates, school nurses, and physicians at the GSK Asthma Summit in Denver, Colorado. Coinciding with Asthma Awareness Month, the GSK Asthma Summit focused on the issue of improving school-based asthma management and addressing asthma disparities in the inner cities of America.

Data presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2015 Annual Conference showed that a program made possible through GSK funding and collaboration, "Building Bridges for Asthma Care," had helped decrease asthma-related absenteeism by about 12% in children enrolled in the program. For children with the same level of asthma, but who did not enroll, absenteeism increased by about 8%. 

To learn more about the issue of asthma in school children, this dynamic group of leading voices in asthma care and advocacy gathered and discussed models for collaboration between caregivers, schools, nurses and physicians, all with the aim of helping at-risk children affected by asthma.

Bloggers at the GSK Asthma Summit: Back row: Andrea Jensen (www.asthmamomlife.blogspot.com),  Katrina Gehman (@topnotchblog) Front row:  Dia Sue-Wah-Sing (@dsuewahs), Kerri McKay (@KerriYWG), Stephen Gaudet (@breathinstephen)

Bloggers at the GSK Asthma Summit:
Back row: Andrea Jensen (www.asthmamomlife.blogspot.com), 
Katrina Gehman (@topnotchblog)
Front row:  Dia Sue-Wah-Sing (@dsuewahs), Kerri McKay (@KerriYWG), Stephen Gaudet (@breathinstephen)

GSK funded and helped define the objectives of the Building Bridges program, a school-based program designed to empower nurses in participating elementary schools to ensure that asthmatic children are identified and provided care according to the National Institute of Health’s clinical treatment guidelines. The objectives of the program address the risk of health disparities and asthma-related absenteeism, as well as its related impact on academic achievement for inner city students. 

I’m proud that GSK is part of this collaboration, together with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Public Schools, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Hartford Public Schools.

It was exciting to spend time with school nurses, advocacy groups, and bloggers at the Summit, who care deeply about asthma patients. One theme that seemed to resonate for all who attended was the commitment to putting the patient first and closing the gap that exists in asthma care for those kids most at risk. Data from this program can help inform decisions about how to improve asthma care in schools, and we hope that lessons from Building Bridges can help build more effective models across the nation.  Students already face many obstacles when it comes to their education and well-being – together we’re working to take asthma-related absenteeism off that list.