The Improvement Association’s Health Advisory Committee Focuses on Asthma/Allergies

Pictured:  Shikee Franklin (Head Start Director), John Holtkamp (DSS Director), Lakesha Jones (Parent/President), Tracey Gilchrist (Secretary/Sussex County Schools), Karlesha Coleman (Health/Disability Coordinator)

“Asthma is a major health problem in the United States,” reported Ms. Tonya Winders, President and CEO of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. More than 5 million school-aged children have asthma. “Approximately 16% of this year’s Head Start children have been diagnosed with asthma and/or allergies. This is significantly higher than previous years. On average, these students tend to miss about 2-3 days more per year than students without asthma”, reported Mrs. Shikee Franklin, Head Start Director.

Head Start’s commitment to wellness embraces a comprehensive vision of health for children, families, and staff. Our Health Advisory Committee is designed to be a link between families and community members to ensure children receive necessary healthcare. The committee includes parents and various community members who help the program establish partnerships with community organizations, engage parents in identifying and accessing health services and resources, participate in the annual self-assessment of the Head Start program, and develop health policies and procedures.

The first Health Advisory Committee Meeting for the 2015-16 school year was held Wednesday, Nov. 18 at The Improvement Association’s main office location in Emporia. Members from area health organizations, as well as representatives from area schools, attended and presented valuable information regarding asthma, allergies, and disabilities. This year’s officers were elected and attendees received a wealth of information regarding asthma and allergies and an overview of the disabilities process within the schools.

Asthma can impact a child’s learning by fatigue, absenteeism, or symptoms that interrupt a student’s attentiveness. Children may wake up throughout the night coughing or wheezing and be left feeling tired in the morning and unable to concentrate. They may have increased absenteeism and/or missed classroom time due to asthmatic episodes, healthcare appointments, and/or hospitalizations. Children with asthma may sometimes suffer lower self-esteem and anxiety about participating in physical education or other activities because they’re afraid of having an asthma episode.

Some things can make asthma worse and initiate the onset of an asthma episode. While not all students are affected by the same factors, sensitivities can change over time. Some of these factors include colds or infections in the upper airways, physical activity, changes in the weather, and strong physical expressions of emotions such as crying, laughing, or yelling. Asthmatic symptoms can also worsen due to allergens such as furred and feathered animals, dust mites, grass/tree pollen, molds, and even cockroaches. In addition, asthmatic symptoms can increase due to certain smells such as environment tobacco smoke; air pollution; strong fumes or odors such as those associated with cleaning supplies; and scented products like air fresheners or perfumes.

In addition to this valuable information regarding asthma, parents were also presented with a disabilities overview for the Sussex and Surry school districts by Ms. Tracey Gilchrist and Dr. Barbara Brown, respectively. 

To learn more about how you can participate in The Improvement Association’s Head Start program, contact our office at 434-634-2490.

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