Innovative Loma Linda University Asthma Screening and Education Program Exceeds Expectations

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The program, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the from the Riverside County Children & Families Commission, also known as First 5 Riverside, uses plays and puppet shows to teach young children about asthma and air pollution throughout Riverside County.

A unique program at Loma Linda University School of Public Health delivers asthma screening, education and follow-up medical referrals to thousands of Riverside County children and their families.

A unique program at Loma Linda University School of Public Health is on track to deliver asthma screening, education and follow-up medical referrals to thousands of Riverside County children and their families over the next four years.

The program, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the from the Riverside County Children & Families Commission, also known as First 5 Riverside, uses plays and puppet shows to teach young children about asthma and air pollution throughout Riverside County.

Teachers also receive training and materials to help identify children at risk for asthma and to help promote asthma-friendly homes and classrooms, and parents are offered classes to learn how to effectively manage their children’s asthma.

The school’s screening target is 6,700 children during the four-year project period, which began earlier this year, and they are well on their way with close to 1,500 children screened within only 6 months of operation. The team has already met or exceeded the annual program goals for parent and teacher education. In addition, the program staff and partners have reached over 11,000 people at community events, health fairs, churches, and schools.        

“Many disease processes originate in the community, and this certainly is true of asthma. LLUH is pleased that our School of Public Health has partnered with First 5 Riverside to tackle this common problem," said Dr. Richard Hart, president of Loma Linda University Health.

The program’s success is due in large part to its innovative educational approach and to the strong partnership between LLU School of Public Health and El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center, an Inland Empire-based community health education agency.

El Sol trains community volunteers as promotores de salud (health promoters), on asthma and respiratory health for hard-to-reach, language-isolated, and vulnerable communities. For the school’s asthma program, the promotores screen young children for asthma at preschools and Head Start facilities, provide parents and teachers with vital asthma information, and perform outreach to communities throughout Riverside County.

A unique aspect of the program is the theatrical component: a play written by Dr. Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, researcher at LLU School of Public Health, designed to appeal to the preschoolers who comprise First 5’s target demographic.

Research has shown that children pay more attention to messages delivered by a puppet or cartoon character than to adults. Dr. Spencer-Hwang’s play, performed in English and Spanish, features a group of wheezing pirates who learn about asthma and air pollution from a friendly doctor.

"The pirate play within the First 5 project is a great example of how public health faculty use their creativity and innovation to teach health principles to the children and improve their lives," said Dr. Tricia Penniecook, dean of the School of Public Health.

Other aspects of the asthma education program include after-school sessions for parents of at-risk children and staff at daycare centers and preschools on asthma preventive care techniques.

“Asthma is one of the most common reasons that a child visits the ER and misses school days,” says Dr. Marti Baum, a Loma Linda University Health pediatrician. “It is also one of the most avoidable ER visits if caught early.”

For more information about the Loma Linda University Asthma Program, call 909-558-8382.

Photo Caption: A unique program at Loma Linda University School of Public Health delivers asthma screening, education and follow-up medical referrals to thousands of Riverside County children and their families. In the photo, participants in the theatrical component of the program performed a pirate play to teach health principles to children in an elementary school in the city of San Bernardino in 2010. The new program to educate young children in Riverside County about asthma is using the play.

About Loma Linda University Health (LLUH)
Loma Linda University Health includes Loma Linda University's eight professional schools, Loma Linda University Medical Center's six hospitals and more than 900 faculty physicians located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Established in 1905, LLUH is a global leader in education, research and clinical care. It offers over 100 academic programs and provides quality health care to 40,000 inpatients and 1.5 million outpatients each year. A Seventh-day Adventist organization, LLUH is a faith-based health system with a mission "to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ."

About First 5 Riverside
First 5 Riverside, the Riverside County Children & Families Commission, is a division of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services and is funded by Proposition 10 tobacco tax revenues. Established by the County Board of Supervisors in 1999, First 5 Riverside supports early childhood development through funding for early education, health and child care services that benefit children, 0 through 5 years of age. Research shows this support helps children develop a strong foundation for success in school and throughout their lives. For more information about First 5 Riverside programs and other funded services, call 800-266-3880 or visit http://www.rccfc.org

About El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center
El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center (El Sol) is a grassroots organization that offers culturally and linguistically relevant educational programs for the non-English speaking residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Most El Sol programs are implemented by promotores de salud, or community health workers, drawn from the Latino community. For more information about El Sol, call 909-884-3735 or visit their website at http://www.elsolnec.org.

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