Today, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein announced that the West Carroll 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 West Carroll 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 West Carroll 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.  

"I appreciate the extended efforts of the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, along with the faculty and staff of West Carroll Parish, to provide an improved asthma friendly environment for the student body of West Carroll Parish," said West Carroll Parish School Superintendent Roger Kent Davis. "We are esteemed to be recognized for this great cause, and to be the first school district in Region 8 to receive this honor. I know becoming an asthma friendly school will prove to be beneficial to the welfare of our current student body, and with sustainability, it will continue to be beneficial to future students of the West Carroll Parish School District."

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.

West Carroll Parish is joined by Orleans, Claiborne, Red River and West Baton Rouge 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 West Carroll Parish collaborated with the state's asthma program, Greater Monroe Asthma Regional Coalition and the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana. Red River 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.