Launching New Resource! Clearing the Air: An Asthma Toolkit for Healthy Schools

MAAP, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Asthma Prevention and Control Program, and Health Resources in Action are delighted to announce the release of a new resource: Clearing the Air: An Asthma Toolkit for Healthy Schools. This toolkit contains sample policy language, best practices, and curated resources and tools to help schools create an asthma-friendly learning and working environment. Nine policy and practice areas have been identified as target areas to help improve air quality inside and around school buildings:

  • School-wide environmental health and safety management

  • Green cleaning and environmental purchasing programs

  • Integrated pest management

  • Leaks and moisture

  • Clutter

  • Outdoor air pollution

  • Fragrance

  • Tobacco

  • Clinical asthma management in the school setting

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood. In any given classroom, it is likely that two or three students have asthma, and in larger classrooms and in some urban settings, that number is likely to be even higher. When children experience asthma symptoms, they often stay home from school, or they might have a hard time participating when they are in school. Research shows that children who have a lot of absences in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade. These students are also four times more likely to drop out of high school

Since children spend a lot of their time in school, an asthma-friendly environment means healthier students who are ready to learn. The benefits of an asthma-friendly school can include:

  • Better attendance

  • Improved academic performance

  • Improved focus and physical stamina

  • Enhanced student and staff productivity

  • Fewer restrictions on participation in physical activities

  • Fewer symptoms and medical emergencies

By taking action together, we can help to ensure that all of our students have a better opportunity to thrive in school and beyond. Everyone – including families, school staff, students, and community groups – has an essential role to play. The school community can help by:

  • Educating children, parents, and staff about asthma and the school environment

  • Identifying and reducing potential asthma triggers in the school

  • Developing and implementing policies that create a supportive, asthma-friendly 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, you’ll find guidance and resources throughout the toolkit – from building administration buy-in to identifying issues around the school to implementing best practices and policies to address the issues. Case studies are also available to show how schools and school districts across MA are making advances to improve the health of students, especially those with asthma. Take action together to make school a place where staff and students can work, learn, and play in the healthiest environment – use the Clearing the Air toolkit for guidance and inspiration.

STAY TUNED! MAAP and the MA DPH are planning a walk-through webinar. We’ll show you how to navigate this toolkit and its resources and discuss different ways to use the toolkit in your own school. More information to come!

SPREAD THE WORD! Click here for our promotion kit, which includes ready-to-share email, web and social media copy as well as graphics to download and send with your messages. We’ve been working hard on this toolkit, and we encourage you to share it with your members and networks!

Family Childcare Providers Learn About Asthma Using: Creating a Healthy Home and Managing Asthma Online Training


MAAP’s Creating a Healthy Home and Managing Asthma is a free, four-part training designed for MA family childcare providers to learn how to maintain healthy childcare environments. Key learning topics include healthy home principles, lead poisoning prevention, and asthma management.

Since the release of the training, it has been used and adapted with great enthusiasm – with 119 Family Childcare Providers trained. Many trainers in the family childcare field are required to provide a certain number of training hours and have used the Creating a Healthy Home and Managing Asthma to supplement their trainings and/or provide trainees an alternative to in-person trainings for more flexibility.

Sharline Del Rosario, a training coordinator at Lowell’s Acre Family Child Care recently used the online training as part of a full day training for family childcare providers.

This training is completely essential for all family educators to go through. I think it is a wonderful training to go through to not only learn the information for themselves, but to improve the health of the people we work with. I’m going to spread the word about how great it is.
— Sharline Del Rosario

There were approximately 15 participants and they included a diverse group of family childcare educators, drivers, and systems staff. Sharline used the online training as a learning tool and went through it together with participants, pausing to emphasize key points and answering questions. The training was insightful, easy to follow, and participants became aware of how the home environment can affect a child’s health, and how to identify and prevent asthma triggers. Trainers and participants appreciated how the online training reference local data such as Lawrence and Lowell and make a link between old buildings and health. 

Through the online training, it also became apparent that it could be used to educate parents as well since children can be exposed to asthma triggers in their own homes.

I shared the training with my daughter whose son suffers from severe asthma. We learned about triggers we did not know existed and it has not only helped us learn how to help him but it has also helped me make sure my daycare is safe for all children entering my home. The information on Lead Poisoning was just as helpful. Thank you for sharing this information!
— Acre Family Child Care Provider

The online training provides an opportunity to share practical knowledge and improve the health of children in the places where they live, learn and play. Currently, the information is only available in English, but it will be available in Spanish in the future. Please help spread the word about this training! For more information, contact Edgar Duran Elmudesi

Member Spotlight: Expansion of the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program

Sadly Springfield, MA has been designated  the top Asthma Capital for the second year in a row by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It is one of 100 most challenging place to live in with asthma, in the nation. Many unfavorable circumstances contribute to the greater Springfield area’s high asthma prevalence and burden, including:

  • Geographical location in a valley where both pollen and carbon dioxide collect;

  • Heavy interstate traffic and commercial pollution;

  • Old housing stock;

  • Lack of access to short- and long-term healthcare services; and

  • Poverty.

The Springfield community has a long history of combating asthma, and over the years, has been able to develop diverse partnerships, combine resources and build capacity to address the high rates of asthma. Most recently, Baystate Health Care Alliance/BeHealthy Partnership ACO received a SHIFT-Care Challenge grant award from the Health Policy Commission to expand the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program. The program’s goal is to improve the quality of life for people living with asthma and reduce asthma health care costs by reducing hospitalization and emergency department visits through implementation of an evidence-based home visiting and home remediation service.

The health and housing sectors have been working together for many years but have not had significant funding to do something at a broader level. This new funding brings partners together to form an innovative collaborative to implement an evidence-based intervention. BeHealthy Partnership, an Accountable Care Organization, is joining together with community organizations from the greater Springfield area to refer patients for the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program’s home education and remediation services. Revitalize Community Development Corporation is the lead housing service provider that will be providing critical repairs and rehabilitation to homes with additional support and services from other community partners. Other partners in the collaborative include:

  • University of Massachusetts Medical School – Baystate;

  • Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts;

  • Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition;

  • Baystate Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department;

  • City of Springfield Office of Housing;

  • Springfield Partners for Community Action; and

  • Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.

The expansion of the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program will serve 150 families with home-based asthma education and self-management support (e.g., proper use of medications), as well as home assessment and repair for conditions that contribute to asthma flare-ups. The new funding enables Baystate’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department to hire two community health workers to conduct the home visits and asthma education. Over the 18-month project, patients will receive 3-4 home visits and families will also receive supplies such as anti-allergen pillows, mattress protectors, and green cleaning kits. BeHealthy Partnership patients who have been hospitalized or have had multiple emergency room visits in the last year for asthma, are eligible for the services.

Springfield has one of the largest and oldest housing stocks with a high need for remediations. The cost of housing repairs and maintenance can be prohibitive for families and overtime the housing stock has significantly deteriorated due to moisture, mold, pests and other housing conditions that can trigger asthma and lead to other health problems. Through the expansion of the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program, the collaborative is hoping to address unhealthy homes as one of the root causes of poor asthma outcomes. Through a series of data collection and evaluation, they are hoping to show the sustainability of this intervention and make the case to keep it going. By leveraging its community assets and persistence in combating poor asthma outcomes, Springfield has become an active leader in mobilizing communities and continues to find innovative ways to improve asthma outcomes for families.

Congratulations Springfield!

Member Spotlight: Parent Asthma Network

Parents and Youth Taking Control of the Asthma Epidemic in Boston

Background: The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) created the Parent Asthma Network (PAN) to develop a support network for and between parents/caregivers who may be facing similar successes and challenges in managing asthma. PAN participants can connect with others who live in the same vicinity and increase their ability to provide each other with critical peer support.

Over the decades, BPHC has been a leader in convening community and key stakeholders to address the root causes of Boston’s heavy asthma burden as well as model prevention and control initiatives. Even though there have been tremendous medical advances in asthma control, and much is now known about medical and non-medical ways to prevent and control asthma, there is still opportunity for more to be done. Asthma rates, emergency room visits, hospitalization stays and deaths due to asthma persist at an unacceptably high rate. Asthma remains a complex issue and can be very confusing for anyone to understand and manage. While BPHC, partner agencies and community members continue working to address the systemic and environmental contributors to asthma, we also need to ensure the immediate burden at hand is being addressed.

PAN Overview: Through PAN and related initiatives, BPHC’s goal is to ensure the wide spread of accurate information about asthma, encourage individuals and communities to learn about and use effective asthma management practices, and make use of the numerous resources and supports available throughout Boston. PAN was piloted from the Fall of 2017 to Spring 2018 with great interest and success and continues with funding support from the MA Department of Public Health (MDPH). MDPH and BPHC’s seasoned community health workers (CHWs) provide key mentorship and three experienced Parent Asthma Leaders (PALs) through Health Resources in Action (HRiA) also provide support. To date, PAN has engaged over 150 individuals. BPHC aims to expand the network of parents and support the training of more PALs who can be a resource to their communities and networks.

How PAN Works: PAN is run as facilitated group sessions that focus on key topic areas with guest speakers and opportunities for sharing experiences and ideas. PAN sessions are currently being hosted by the ABCD Head Start Geneva Ave site in Dorchester and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (run in Spanish).  Each site runs multiple sessions during the academic year and features a range of topics and activities, including asthma basics, asthma medication, asthma and nutrition, asthma and back to school prep, asthma and environmental health, MassHealth/asthma, and emergency preparedness.

During these sessions, participants learn from each other and dialogue with guest speakers from agencies including Boston Inspectional Services, BPHC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and the Mayor’s Health Line, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, and Partners Asthma Center.

A pre/post-quiz is given to participants at the beginning and end of each session to help them in their learning process. An evaluation is conducted at the end of each session to ensure participants are contributing to the design and shape of successful meetings and activities. Participants also get to voice what topics they would like to see at future sessions.

When asked what they found most meaningful about workshops, participants said:

“Now I have a better understanding of the asthma action plan. I find this information useful and appropriate. Thank you.” – PAN participant

“There was time for questions and answers, love this workshop well informed, other parents, much knowledge was shared in this room. Thank you!” – PAN participant

“Great workshop. Very interesting and interesting topic” – PAN participant

PAN was conceived and is coordinated by Nathalie Bazil, BSW, CCHW, Senior CHW and Coordinator for the BPHC Asthma Prevention and Control Program. The three PALs from HRiA are also instrumental in the success of PAN. The PALs are dedicated members of the community who took a stand over 20 years ago to ensure the city was taking responsibility for the high asthma rates in Boston. Since then, the PALs have been part of efforts and conversations with a range of key city agencies and sit on numerous advisory boards. Through PAN, BPHC hopes to see a new generation of PALs who can be mentored by the current representatives. PAN has been a tremendous success, and we hope to see it only expand further into communities as an effective model for collective awareness and action. BPHC is currently working with partners on a new network for and by youth and young adults. For more information contact