Summer is here!
That means it’s time for us to take action to keep our air clean. Summer days in Texas can be conducive for ozone formation as high-pressure systems dominate our local weather patterns, giving us clear skies and stagnant winds. People with asthma are known to be especially susceptible to the effects of ozone exposure. Children are at an even higher risk due to time spent in exercise and outdoors. (For more info on asthma and ozone check the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/o3healthtraining/effects.html)
Ozone is a gas that is formed in the atmosphere when three atoms of oxygen combine. Ozone is found high in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. Ground-level ozone, sometimes referred to as smog, mainly forms the highest concentrations on sunny days with slow wind speeds, which allow pollutants to accumulate. Ozone season has begun in Texas, but there are many things you can do to limit ozone formation.
1. Drive Less: To reduce air emissions, you can carpool with a coworker, use public transit, or simply combine errands when possible. Removing one properly maintained passenger car from the road for one year would save an average of 17 pounds of nitrogen oxides from being discharged into the air.
2. Maintain Your Vehicle: With regularly scheduled maintenance, a properly tuned engine, and full pressured tires, you can reduce your car’s emissions and improve gas mileage at the same time.
3. Refuel Your Car in the Evening: Refuel in the late afternoon and evening to reduce the likelihood of ground-level ozone formation. When filling your vehicle’s gas tank, don’t top it off, which can allow fuel to escape as vapor.
4. Reduce Idling: If you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds, park your vehicle, turn it off, and go inside. You’ll reduce your fuel costs and help keep the air clean.
To see your own area’s air quality forecast, see the TCEQ website on air monitoring: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/airquality/monops/forecast_today.html. Read, download, or order publications related to air quality at TakeCareOfTexas.org: http://takecareoftexas.org/air/air-quality-resources.
May is Asthma Awareness Month
The chronic lung disease of asthma affects over 25 million people living in the United States. In Texas, more than 2 million people have asthma, including 1 in 11 children. It causes 3 in 5 people living with asthma to limit their physical activity or miss days of school and work. Asthma is also expensive, costing the nation $56 billion each year. Texas asthma hospitalizations cost more than $658.5 million in 2012.
May 5th is World Asthma Day
On World Asthma Day and throughout May, people with asthma and organizations dedicated to asthma control and education join together to increase awareness about asthma and improve the lives of all people with asthma everywhere.
Need ideas for getting out the word about asthma in your community?
Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency toolkits:
The Asthma Guidelines At-A-Glance pocket sized flip chart is now available in Spanish!
This resource for health care providers was designed by the TACP and Texas Health Steps to be a clinical tool that summarizes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Un Vistazo a las Pautas Sobre el Asma was translated by DSHS Language Services and may be the only Spanish translation of the national asthma guidelines in existence. A pdf is available for download from the Educational Materials page and limited number of printed copies will be distributed to the Health Service Regions’ offices across the state.
February is Black History Month!
TACP would like to draw your attention to the disproportionate burden of asthma on the African American population across the country and in Texas. According to the CDC, Black children are twice as likely to be hospitalized and four times as likely to die from asthma as white children in the U.S. overall. Texas data shows that our hospital discharge rates for children are more than three times higher among blacks than among whites, as demonstrated on the graph below. The rates were also higher for adults at 11.8% for Blacks, 8.6% for Whites, and 4.2% for Hispanics in Texas.
• An estimated 7.3% of adults and 9.1% of children have asthma. This means that more than 1.4 million adults and 617,000 children have asthma in Texas.
• Asthma Medicaid expenditures totaled $28.7 million among adults and $91.9 million among children in 2013.
• Adult asthma prevalence is highest among females, blacks, current smokers, persons with medical insurance, persons with a lower household income, and those who were obese.
• The asthma mortality rate decreased from 11.5 per 1 million people in 2002 to 7.8 per 1 million people in 2012.
• Most pediatric asthma emergency department patients didn’t have an asthma action plan. The prevalence was highest among uninsured patients.
• About 36.0% of adults with current asthma missed one or more days of work due to their asthma in the past 12 months.
• Half of children with current asthma missed one or more days of school due to their asthma in the past 12 months.
It’s Flu Vaccine Time!
Persons with asthma are at higher risk for influenza-related complications, such as pneumonia. Most people with asthma do not receive an annual flu vaccination, even though they are at high risk of developing complications after contracting the influenza virus. Most people now have access to free flu vaccines through their health insurance plans or through their local health departments. Low cost vaccines are available at many pharmacies in the fall and winter. Health care providers need to explain flu risks to their patients with asthma and offer the vaccination to them every year. People with asthma need to take charge of their health by getting the flu vaccine every fall. If you have asthma or know someone with asthma, help them get their flu vaccine. And you can help by getting one yourself!
CDC guidance on asthma and the flu vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/asthma/
Download a fact sheet: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/treating_flu.pdf
Help Protect Student Health - Join the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) School Flag Program!
The School Flag Program alerts schools to the local air quality forecast and helps them to take actions to protect students' health, especially those with asthma. Here's how it works: each day the school raises a flag that corresponds to how clean or polluted the air is. The color of the flag matches EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI): green, yellow, orange, red, and purple. On unhealthy days, schools can use this information to adjust physical activities to help reduce exposure to air pollution, while still keeping students active. Encourage your school and the schools in your community to adopt the School Flag Program -- use the Get Started tab at http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=school_flag_program.index to begin!
Consider applying for the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Awards for Excellence in Texas School Health Reaching for Excellence Grant to help jumpstart this program in your school today!
Sign up for Texas Asthma News Alerts
Looking for a way to stay up-to-date on asthma related news? Sign up for our Texas Asthma News Alerts information list. For more information or to sign up, click here.
North East ISD Asthma Awareness Education Program
Congratulations to Diane Rhodes, Assistant Director of the North East ISD (NEISD) Asthma Awareness Education Program (AAEP), and her team for receiving the coveted Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 National Leadership Award in Asthma Management. The award recognizes exemplary asthma management programs that are using innovative approaches to improve patient health and quality of life. NEISD, which is located in San Antonio, serves 67,000 students, including more than 8,000 children with asthma. AAEP is the first school-based asthma program to receive this prestigious award, and one of only three award recipients this year.
NEISD utilizes the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program framework, which addresses four overlapping components of a comprehensive program:
The program works to:
Increase asthma awareness in the school community,
Train school nurses, administration and staff on asthma management for the student population,
Provide education, tools and other services to help school staff address the needs of students with asthma and to create and maintain good indoor air quality for all students and staff,
Address environmental asthma triggers in schools through training for custodial staff and monthly meetings with facilities staff,
Assure each student with asthma has an asthma action plan that details medicine dosage and usage, and actions to take in the event of exacerbated symptoms, and
Provides in-home case management to include personalized counseling, identification and reduction of asthma triggers in the home, and coordination to assure the child has a medical home.
NEISD program efforts have reduced asthma symptoms and trips to the emergency department, and increased attendance rates among students with asthma.
For more information on the NEISD’s Asthma Awareness and Education Program, visit their website: http://www.neisd.net/env_health/