Welcome to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Asthma Prevention and Control Program’s Clearing the Air: An Asthma Toolkit for Healthy Schools. This toolkit will help you get started on creating an asthma-friendly school environment — whether your school is considering a comprehensive wellness policy that includes environmental health and safety, or if you want to start on more modest projects. For example, simply changing classroom cleaning practices or strengthening an existing policy on cleaning can make a difference to those living with asthma and other breathing problems. Asthma-friendly policies and practices create safe and asthma-friendly environments.

How to Use This Toolkit

This toolkit provides you with the tools and resources to jump in and start work on specific asthma-friendly policies or practices, or to step back and assess your school’s needs to identify priority areas. Many useful tools and resources were reviewed for the purposes of this toolkit, and are presented here in an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use way for Massachusetts schools. The contents of this toolkit will help you build your school’s capacity to identify and address potential environmental triggers, and direct you to additional resources and agencies that can provide further expertise. Whatever your approach, make sure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of the connection between asthma and education. This promotes support for your work in schools.

Use the step-by-step approach to guide a school-wide environmental health and safety strategy, or to support a specific area of need you have already identified. This approach helps you to gather data, and plan, complete, and monitor your activities.

Once you have identified or prioritized a problem area or topic of concern (e.g., green cleaning, integrated pest management, etc.), learn more about best practices and policies, and resources that can help you to implement them. Below are nine areas of policy and practice that individually and in combination can make your school more asthma-friendly:

  1. School-wide environmental health and safety management

  2. Green cleaning and environmental purchasing programs

  3. Integrated pest management

  4. Leaks and moisture

  5. Clutter

  6. Outdoor air pollution

  7. Fragrance

  8. Tobacco

  9. Clinical asthma management in the school setting

Some policy areas are related to others, so if you are using integrated pest management, for example, you should  also be working to reduce clutter through recycling (because clutter can be a home for pests). The school-wide environmental health and safety management approach addresses multiple policy and practice areas simultaneously.

Real-life stories can help you understand how other Massachusetts schools have been able to create asthma-friendly environments, and the lessons they have learned. Sample presentations, fact sheets, examples of policies, and other resources can help you to gain support from people at the school to carry out asthma-friendly policies and practices.

Everyone Can Play a Role

There are different roles that teachers, school nurses, administrators, facilities managers and custodians, parents, community members, students, and others can take to promote asthma-friendly environments.