Today, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein announced that the Claiborne Parish School District is one of five school districts that have earned the asthma-friendly designation from LDH's Asthma Management and Prevention Program for the 2011-2012 academic year.

"I applaud the Claiborne Parish schools that have worked diligently to create a healthier environment for their students with asthma," LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said. "Asthma symptoms often hinder a child's ability to succeed in academic settings. By implementing these best practices, the schools in Claiborne Parish are giving students with asthma the chance to focus on what really matters - achieving their academic goals."

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound), chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Asthma reduces the amount of air that can pass, making it hard to breathe. In severe instances, asthma can be fatal. Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled, and there are plenty of ways schools can play a part in keeping students' asthma under control.  

"It is truly an honor for Claiborne Parish Schools to be among the first school districts in Northwest Louisiana to be named an Asthma Friendly School District," said Claiborne Parish Superintendent Dr. Janice Williams. "I applaud the efforts and contributions of supervisors, principals, custodians, school nurses and everyone else who assisted Claiborne Parish in this endeavor.  This distinguished accomplishment will assist in our endeavor to educate the 'whole child.'  For we truly know that we cannot educate students who are not present at school.   This is just another measure to raise the awareness of educators to address the needs of individuals suffering with asthma. The small, inexpensive changes made to our environment make the air easier to breathe for everyone.  I appreciate the team from LDH who worked tirelessly with Claiborne Parish Schools to achieve this status."

According to 2009 Louisiana Hospital Inpatient Discharge Data, asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. Young children aren't the only ones affected. The 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that more than 22 percent of Louisiana high school students reported having missed at least one day of school due to asthma.

To combat these astounding statistics, LDH's Asthma Management and Prevention Program implemented the Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative in the four Louisiana regions that have the highest asthma prevalence and hospitalization rates - New Orleans area, Capital area, and the Northwest and Northeast. LDH seeks to educate school personnel on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma, which will improve school attendance and keep students in classrooms, where they can learn.

Claiborne Parish is joined by Orleans, Red River, West Baton Rouge and West Carroll parishes. In accordance with grant funding, LDH will extend an offer of participation to one school district per region per year for the next three years.    

All public schools in Claiborne Parish collaborated with the state's asthma program, Greater Shreveport Asthma Regional Coalition and the Campti Community Development Center. Claiborne Parish schools are helping by being supportive of students and staff with asthma; adopting asthma-friendly policies and procedures; coordinating services with physicians to increase asthma action plans for all students with asthma; and providing continued asthma education for students and staff in collaboration with the Asthma Management and Prevention Program.

To learn more about the Louisiana Asthma Management and Prevention Program, visit www.asthma.dhh.louisiana.gov.