Sunday, November 13, 2005

Asthma, Schools and Environmental Justice

Marie Hoemke, a former SF School Nurse and activist with the SF Asthma Task Force, has been one of the driving forces of implementing better Asthma policies in the San Francisco Schools - addressing a serious issue of environmental racism in our City. But she hasn't done this alone. She's worked alongside amazing parent and enviornmental justice activists like Maria Luz Torre, Lorrie Jones, Natasha Madaris and Parent Voices, Beth Saiki and Anjali Nath of the American Lung Association, and Kathy Perry of Kaiser and the Chair of the City's Task Force. Hoemke has been at it for over a decade. In the 1990's she worked with teachers, parents and students from George Washington Carver Elementary like school counselor Veronica Lightfoot to begin the district's first school asthma education program in 1996. See the SF Asthma Task Force's Strategic Plan.

For a concise history of the struggle for envirnonmental justice in the SF Schools in the Bayview Hunters Point communities - check out this article from the Action Alliance for Childen's July-August 2000 issue of the Children's Advocate.
Check out also SF Chronicle environmental reporter Jane Kay's excellent coverage of the struggle to change City and School District policies in the aftermath of the deaths of 3 children.

Marie, with Parent Voices, the American Lung Association, Bayview Hunters Point and other parents in the South East neighborhoods of SF and others are keeping the pressure on the School District to deal with asthma and other environmental justice issues in our district.

For a useful tool for school districts - check out - Tools for Schools
Help improve the air in your school through the Tools for Schools action kit.
The Tools for Schools kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to prevent and resolve indoor air problems—and create a healthier environment for children and staff.
The number of children with asthma increased by 60 percent during the 1980s, and poor indoor air quality can trigger asthmatic episodes. Over half of the schools surveyed found at least one environmental problem which affects indoor air quality, according to a recent government report.
Good indoor air quality contributes to a favorable learning environment for students, productivity for teachers and staff, and a a sense of comfort, health, and well-being for all school occupants. These combine to assist a school in its core mission—educating children.
For more information about Tools for Schools, just call 1-800-LUNG-USA to be connected automatically to your local American Lung Association office.

See also the American Association of Adminstrator's new
Powerful Practices: A Checklist for School Districts Addressing the Needs of Students with Asthma

This checklist, developed by AASA and partner school districts, is intended for school administrators to use to help you identify areas of asthma management your district is already doing well, as well as areas in which you may want to focus more energy.

Asthma Wellness: Keeping Children With Asthma in School and LearningProject Facts
Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than five million school-aged children. It is the reason 10 million school days are missed each year and thereby can have significant negative impacts on academic performance. It is critical for school leaders to be proactive and implement policies and practices that will keep children with asthma in school and learning. This is why AASA—the oldest and largest membership organization for school superintendents—has undertaken an effort to reduce the burden of asthma among children and youth. This ambitious five-year effort is funded by the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For SF School Board Resolutions on Asthma - click here.

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