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27-05-2012 | Immunology | Article

School-based asthma interventions may reduce absenteeism

Abstract

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MedWire News: Children who attend schools in the most deprived areas are more likely to report absences because of asthma than those who attend schools in wealthier areas, US researchers report.

Ying-Ying Meng and colleagues from the University of California in Los Angeles say their findings highlight a need for school-level interventions to help children manage their asthma and decrease absenteeism.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among children in the USA, affecting around 10% of children, and is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism.

Socioeconomic status is another factor that affects school attendance. In the present study, Meng and team investigated whether children attending schools with the highest proportion of low-income students were more likely to miss school because of asthma than children attending schools with the lowest proportion of low-income students.

Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, a population-based survey of California households, the researchers found that 17% of children aged 4 to 17 years who attended public school had diagnosed asthma, of whom 23% had missed at least 1 day of school in the previous 12 months because of their asthma.

Children attending schools with the highest concentrations of low-income students (≥75% participating in the free and reduced-price meal program) were twice as likely to miss school because of asthma as children attending schools with the lowest proportion of low-income status (<25% participating in the free and reduced-price meal program). These findings were independent of age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, insurance status, and asthma severity, the researchers note.

They also found that children from low-income families, younger children, those with more frequent asthma symptoms, or those taking prescription asthma medications were more likely to miss school because of asthma.

"Because California schools receive funding based on daily attendance, these findings suggest that resources allocated to schools with a large proportion of low-income students may be reduced because their children are more likely to miss school because of asthma," Meng and co-authors note.

They say that their data do not provide a direct explanation as to why children attending schools with the highest concentrations of low-income students are more likely to be absent due to asthma. However, higher exposure to indoor and outdoor asthma triggers, such as pollution and mold may play a part, as schools in lower socioeconomic status districts are more likely to be near busy roads and in a poor state of repair.

"These results suggest that school-level interventions, especially in schools with high concentrations of low-income students, should be explored as a strategy to decrease school absenteeism due to asthma," Meng et al conclude in Preventing Chronic Disease.

"Potential interventions could include school-based asthma education and disease management and indoor and outdoor air pollution control."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Laura Cowen

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