As a Respiratory Therapist, Ive worked with the entire age range of asthmatics, from infants to adults, both in the hospital setting and out. As a health advocate, I try my best to educate the public, including health professionals, about asthma and the various aspects of living with a chronic lung disease in general. I’m embarrassed to say though, that I’ve never really given much thought about the prevalence of asthma in our public School systems and how it’s dealt with. This is a major short shortsightedness on my part because school-aged children represent the largest segment of the asthmatic population, and children with uncontrolled asthma often grow up to be adults with uncontrolled asthma. Obviously, I know that children with asthma tend to miss a lot school days due to their illness(heck, I was one of those children),but I had no idea just how big the problem was and how much of an impact it can have on those kids as they’re growing up, not to mention the financial impact which has an effect on everyone in this society.

Well, thanks to the folks at GSK, I now have a much better understanding of the problem and perhaps how to potentially solve it. Myself, along with a few other patient advocates and health bloggers were invited to Denver Colorado to check out a pilot program that they’ve been co-sponsoring at 28 elementary schools in Denver and Hartford. The name of the project is called “Building Bridges for Asthma Control“.

The Building Bridges program is all about improving asthma control in school-aged children and ensuring that the schools have the tools needed to obtain that goal. It’s a brilliant concept that’s catching on, and after attending this meeting and hearing about some of the positive outcomes, my hope is that more and more schools throughout the country will adopt similar programs.

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Rather than bore you with a play by play of the conference itself, here’s the a video clip produced by GSK that captures the essence the program. We viewed the same video at the conference and got to meet and chat and with all the people in the video.

The big take away from this presentation, at least for me, is that everyone in our society benefits when we’re able to recognize, control and prevent asthma from getting worse beginning at the earliest age possible. And what better place to do this, than where kids spend most of their daytime hours. I sure wish we had a program like this in my school when I was growing up.

So, do the big drug companies have a vested interest in helping these types of programs succeed and seeing the absenteeism rates drop? Would this type of program increase their inhaler sales? I seriously doubt it. Even the big bad drug companies do good things once and in a while and I think this is a perfect example of that. And while a drug company might have provided the initial funding to get this project off the ground, going forward it will be up to the individual states and school districts to decide which asthma control programs work best for them and how to they might pay for them.
Note to my readers:

GSK provided reimbursement for my travel expenses to attend this event, but I wrote this post voluntarily and was not paid to do so. I only write about topics that I’m passionate about, regardless of the inspiration for them.

My friend Kerri, whose views on this subject I share, wrote an excellent article prior to the event.

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5 thoughts on “Let’s build some Bridges

  1. Kerri says:

    Your last statement is huge. EXACTLY. Especially if we’re talking a non-generic drug company who is clearly not being like “Let’s give y’all Ventolin” because there are legalities around that ;).
    I still have to write my post-event post […have to post my post event post?!], but I totally agree. School staff [nurses included, but less important in my mind dependent on access to such a professional], and their education to educate the students and families they are caring for, is beyond important to keep kids in schools. I was also floored by the link that was made by asthma -> absenteeism -> [decrease in education/attendance] -> juvenile delinquency -> prison time. Ridiculous. If a program like this can impact that cycle, which I believe it can in some way, then that… is massive. And this, is what underscores to me that pharma is not against the world–they are trying to be with it and that’s been made hard for them [and probably for good reason, but I’d love to see that change…]. [I should really go write that blog post instead of rambling here :D.]

  2. Karen Hagens says:

    Great article and thought provoking. Thanks to you and Kerri for always advocating for the patient. Glad you both found the event useful! Was terrific to meet all of you.

    – Karen

    1. It was a pleasure meeting you guys. Thanks for inviting us. Keep up the good work!

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