Providing more and better learning time, because all students deserve to develop their full potential.

Attacking Asthma: Q & A with Ernest A. Logan

Susan Brenna

Susan Brenna is TASC's Chief Communications Officer.

Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism among American children. New York City’s Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) is campaigning to reduce lost learning by bringing the disease under control among city students. Ernest A. Logan, CSA’s president, discussed how and why. 

Q. You’ve launched a subway ad campaign with the Children’s Health Fund, asking parents to give schools permission to treat their children for asthma. It seems like common sense that parents would agree. What’s the obstacle here?

A. A lot of parents are overwhelmed by multiple family and work responsibilities and forget to update the blue emergency contact card on file at the school or to ask their doctors to fill out the form that’s known as the 504.  Others don’t have health insurance or a family physician and aren’t aware of community health centers in their neighborhoods.  That’s one of the reasons we support the concept of school-based health centers.

Q. Can you estimate how many school days NYC students are missing due to asthma? 

A. Estimates indicate that some 12.8 million school days are missed by students across the country due to uncontrolled asthma. We can’t break that number down for New York City, but we know that more than 140,000 of our public school children have asthma and the Department of Education says that it is the greatest cause of absenteeism.

Q. What’s it like for a principal, assistant principal and teachers when a child has an asthma attack at school, and the school can’t treat it?

A.  It’s frightening and disruptive not just for principals, assistant principals and teachers, but it’s often terrifying for the other children at school.  As for the child having the attack, being taken by ambulance without a parent can be traumatic.  A principal, assistant principal or someone else in authority at the school always accompanies the child, but nothing can make up for a loved one. 

Q.  Will CSA and the Children’s Health Fund be collaborating in other ways this school year to get kids better care?

A. Yes, we’ll be doing several things together, including reaching out to our union members, medical professionals, parent groups and elected officials to find viable ways to meet the challenge of asthma in our schools. We’ve already formed a committee of CSA members to advise us on every aspect of this project.

Q. At TASC, we support schools that team with community organizations to expand learning time and opportunities for kids. Is there any way these community partners can help? 

A.  In general, community-based organizations should ask local principals how they gauge the need for health care resources in their schools and if there is an opportunity to team up to bring in those resources.

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