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EPA Asthma Grant Will Help Kingwood, W.Va. Elementary School Students Manage Asthma Triggers

Release Date: 10/26/2004
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region, presented a $7,000 check today to West Virginia University and the American Lung Association of West Virginia for a project that will help 70 elementary school students who suffer from asthma breathe easier.

The in-school program at the Kingwood Elementary School will teach 70 students to identify asthma triggers, which include dust mites, pets, mold, pests and second-hand smoke, as well as how to avoid them. The students will also learn how to manage an asthma attack, including relaxation techniques to help them stay calm during an attack, and the proper method of using inhalers.

In West Virginia, an estimated 31,000 children suffer from asthma. According to the Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2002, students miss 11 or more school days a year due to asthma.

Children in rural West Virginia have a difficult time getting the necessary medical attention. Transportation problems, due to isolated and dangerous roads are often blamed for the failure to keep clinic appointments. Telephones for emergency use or for follow-up by health care workers are not always available. And Preston County is one of 43 counties in West Virginia designated as health professional shortage areas. A recent state survey reported physician shortages and a need for 69 to 150 family practice physicians. There is also a shortage of pediatricians in general, and only a few of the existing ones specialize in asthma care.

“Asthma management is a major health care problem in rural West Virginia,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh. “One way to address this problem is to improve patients’ self-care skills so they can manage their own asthma condition. This grant is an excellent beginning.”

The asthma program is designed to be self-sustaining, and the ultimate goal is to decrease hospitalization and emergency room visits, reduce days lost from school due to asthma, and improve students’ quality of life.

The program is under the direction of the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health. The institute has broad experience and is a leader in research, training and services in occupational and environmental concerns, including several asthma and respiratory disease projects.

“We are pleased to be working with Kingwood Elementary and the EPA on this project,” said Alan Ducatman, M.D. of WVU. “Our mission is to make homes, schools, and workplaces safer for people, and we know that this project has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of West Virginia children.”

Nationally, the Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 20 million people in the U.S. live with asthma. Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under 15 with 14 million school days missed per year due to the asthma. Asthma accounts for more than 10 million outpatient clinic visits nearly two million emergency room visits each year.