November 2012, Volume 16, Number 5

Powerful Partnerships

Breathing Life Into Asthma Education

Doctor examining patient
The American Lung Association is training the College’s respiratory therapy students as part of their service learning to be instructors at either Jessie Trice Community Health Center clinics or at Miami-Dade County public schools starting in late fall.

Miami Dade College and the American Lung Association (ALA) are joining forces to provide Open Airways, an important asthma education program for elementary school students.

The Association is training the College’s respiratory therapy students as part of their service learning to be instructors at either Jessie Trice Community Health Center clinics or at Miami-Dade County public schools starting in late fall.

Prevalent Disease

“Asthma is a very widespread problem, so this is great practical experience for our MDC students to work hands-on with kids afflicted with the disease,” said Randy De Kler, the College’s Respiratory Care program director at Medical Campus. The disease, which can be life threatening if not managed well, is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood, according to the ALA’s most recent statistics. It affects about 10 percent of children under 18.

The Open Airways program targets third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, a group that has a lot of emergency room visits, said
Andrew Cuddihy, the Association’s program director in Florida. Children at those ages are also able to understand the curriculum and put it to use. In addition, the Association has material to help educate parents as well as a program for school staff and faculty.

Engaging Approach

“It’s not a lecture – we involve and engage these kids in fun activities,” Cuddihy said. They ask the children to think about what in their environment brings on the symptoms, and they discuss proper medication.

“We talk about communication. All too often, we hear about a child who’s embarrassed about their symptoms,” he said.

One of the things the student instructors emphasize is the importance of telling an adult when the symptoms begin. “We teach them to relax,” Cuddihy said, so they don’t add to the stress on the muscles surrounding their airways.

Cuddihy said he appreciates the “fantastic partnership” with Miami Dade College, noting, “It’s certainly a plus for everyone involved.” 

— Staff Report


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