UA teams with 16 TUSD elementary schools for asthma study - Tucson News Now

UA teams with 16 TUSD elementary schools for asthma study

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Some Tucson children are about to participate in a new study that could help them and other children breathe easier.

Here in Arizona one out ten children has asthma.

It can mean trips to the emergency room and missed school days if their asthma is not controlled.

There might be a way to keep children with asthma healthier, keep them in school and keep health care costs down.

The University of Arizona is heading up the study that will be conducted at 16 Tucson Unified School District schools beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Dr. Joe Gerald of the UA College of Public Health is one of the researchers.

"We're really trying to make the lives of these children better," he says.

The UA scientists are teaming up with the Tucson Unified School District and the American Lung Association on the two-year study.

Children in kindergarten through fifth grade who attend a participating school and who have been diagnosed with asthma are eligible for the study.

They must have parent or guardian permission to participate.

"We're asking the schools to maintain the child's inhaler on premises and then to supervise the child as they take their daily medication," Gerald says.

A goal of the study is to show schools that this program can work to keep children healthy and in class.

Gerald says another goal is to convince insurance companies and Medicaid to provide an extra inhaler, up front, that a child can keep at school.

Usually insurance will pay for only one inhaler at a time.

"We have to convince the insurance companies that this program represents a good value, that it's going to improve health, but in such a way that it's money well-spent," Gerald says.

He says the second year of the study will give researchers the opportunity to figure out how to make the program sustainable so it continues long after the study ends.

That way children always have access to the inhalers that help them control their asthma, and they will have the supervision they need to make sure they use it.

"So that they would use it every day that they're at school and, by doing so, it's going to reduce their risk of having an exacerbation and going to the emergency department or the hospital for their asthma," Gerald says.

The College of Public Health says, "Overall, the medical costs of children with asthma are double those of children without asthma. The greatest burden of asthma disproportionately falls upon low-income and minority children. One of the most important causes of poor asthma control is limited access to, and inconsistent use of, daily medications such as inhaled corticosteroids."

If all goes well, the program could become a model for the nation.

The study will begin next school year, but enrollment in the study began today.

The study includes free asthma medications.

For more information, including participating schools and how to enroll your child, click here.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is providing the $1.1 million funding for the two-year study which is called the Supervised Asthma Medicine in Schools (SAMS) program.

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