Breath of Life Mobile Asthma Clinic goes on the road to bring relief to children with asthma at local school

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Unless managed effectively, asthma can take much of the joy out of childhood. It’s hard for children to run and play if they’re always tired, have difficulty breathing, and feel pain and tightness in their chest.

Asthma can also sabotage a child’s education. It’s the No. 1 cause of children missing school, resulting in more than 14 million school absences in the United States each year. And asthma is the leading cause of school-age children being hospitalized.

That’s why the Breath of Life Mobile Asthma Clinic has hit the road again, bringing excellent medical care to kids with asthma while they’re at school.

“Three of the main barriers to good asthma care that our mobile clinic will address are getting to the doctor’s office for care, being able to afford the care, and understanding what you can do to control your child’s asthma,” said Paul Sharkey, MD, an asthma and allergy specialist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

Everyone benefits from the mobile asthma clinic, he said.

“Schools are happy because children stay in school instead of being out for the day. And students with asthma can participate more fully in school activities when their asthma is well-controlled,” he added.

“Parents are happy because they don’t have to take the child out of school for a doctor’s appointment,” Dr. Sharkey added.

UTHSCT sponsors the mobile asthma clinic. The custom-built clinic – equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a team of asthma specialists – is visiting selected elementary and middle schools in Tyler.

Children diagnosed with asthma – and their parent or guardian – receive a comprehensive, individualized asthma management program, as well as education that helps children and their families cope better with the chronic disease. In addition, there’s no charge for an appointment.

Studies have shown that children who participate in similar programs miss fewer school days due to asthma-related problems, have fewer asthma attacks and emergency room visits, are admitted to a hospital less frequently, and significantly improve their quality of life.

In the three years that the Breath of Life Mobile Clinic has been seeing children with asthma, only one of those children has had to be hospitalized for asthma, Dr. Sharkey said.

Data show children with asthma who were previously seen in the mobile asthma clinic missed, on average, just one-third as many school days as they had before. And their visits to the emergency room dropped by 75 percent.

The mobile asthma van currently is visiting the following schools in the Tyler Independent School District: Bell, Caldwell, Clarkston, Dixie, Douglas, Griffin, and Jones elementary schools, and Hogg Middle School.

For more than 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. UTHSCT’s annual operating budget of $125 million represents a major economic impact of over $287 million for the Northeast Texas region. Since 2002, scientists in the Center for Biomedical Research have been awarded more than $120 million in research dollars. As the academic health science center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities throughout the region and beyond. UTHSCT is also the program sponsor of the residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.

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