| Asthma in School Age Children as a Public Health Concern Patti Elmiger NS 521 Community Health Nursing Principles and Theories October 3, 2012 In Charlestown, Massachusetts, The Kennedy Center’s Head Start Program provides early educational services to low income families residing in the community. The program works with children as well as their parents to establish healthier lifestyles despite their limited resources.
A major public health concern for this vulnerable population is that of asthma.The role of the public health nurse is to raise awareness and work with the parents and children to help prevent and reduce the risk of this environmental health concern. In addition, by working with health care agencies, the public health nurse can help find services for families who lack insurance to ensure that their children receive the screening and care needed to identify and manage asthma incidences.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough (Lewis, Dirksen, Heitkemper, Bucher, & Camera, 2011, p. 88). Asthma attacks can range from a mild interference of breathing to more serious, life-threatening emergencies. Attacks can be triggered by a number of factors including air pollution, exposure to cigarette smoke, allergen inhalation, exercise, and unhealthy living conditions. In children, asthma can affect their quality of life physically, socially, and emotionally. With medication and avoidance of environmental triggers, symptoms can be reduced. Medications to treat asthma are principally glucocorticoids (anti-inflammatory agents) and beta2 agonists (bronchodilators).
Treatment with these medications can result in enhanced therapeutic effects, minimized systemic effects, and rapid relief of acute affects (Lenhe, 2013, p. 959). With proper treatment, most children have the ability to lead full lives with no limitation. This presents a major problem for the families who lack health insurance or the funds to cover the cost of the medications necessary for the child diagnosed with asthma.
In order to improve the care of children suffering with asthma, guidelines for management have been established.Guidelines for care are categorize asthma severity based on the frequency of asthma symptoms, medication use, and lung function measures (Bacharier, Strunk, Mauger, White, Lemanske, & Sorkness, p. 426, 2004). Therapy is based on the level of asthma severity, making early detection and screening a critical component. Management of asthma symptoms will ultimately reduce the instances of altered activity and school absences. A child’s quality of life can improve by not being limited in their day-to-day activities such as sports, school, and play. According to Juniper (1998), children are often upset and frightened by asthma attacks.They may feel different from their friends or frustrated that they can’t participate in activities.
This can be damaging to a young child who may not understand what is going on with their body. According to the Head Start Program’s School Nurse, 18% of the students currently enrolled in September 2012 suffer from asthma (T. Pellerin, personal communication, September 25, 2012).
This number only reflects the children with identified health concerns. There may be other children who have not been screened or classified. These children may also be living in homes where adults or other family members expose them to cigarette smoke.
Some parents may not understand the link between environmental triggers and their child’s illness. The public health nurse can assist these families on many levels of prevention. Through education and awareness, parents can learn about signs and symptoms of asthma as well as the need for screening and classifying their child’s severity. They can be alerted to possible triggers and ways to avoid them in their environment. Keeping a clean home, free of trash and open food products, can reduce the chances of insect infestation and dander accumulation.It is also important to make sure a child has access to fresh air as well as avoidance of exposure to cigarette smoke. The nurse can work with health care agencies to assist in diagnosing the child’s asthma as well as implementing effective treatment and management.
Children have a right to clean air and this principle begins on the home front. By educating parents and community members about the prevalence of asthma, early intervention can greatly reduce the severity of a child’s asthma condition. Health care agencies need to work together with ommunities to assist families with financial hardships in awareness, management, and treatment. Children will be able to engage in a healthy lifestyle without limitations, missed school days, or risk of hospitalization. Ultimately, the public health nurse can help to improve the Head Start families’ quality of lives with this environmental health concern. References Bacharier, L. , Strunk, R. , Mauger, D.
, White, D. , Lemanske, R. , Sorkness, C. (2004). Classifying asthma severity in children. American Journal Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, 170, 426-432.
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