UH Pharmacy Students Take on Asthma

Interactive Program Educates Children about Self-Management

A newly implemented, student-led program at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP), in collaboration with the American Lung Association, is helping elementary school students with asthma manage their disease.

Open Airways is a school-based curriculum sponsored by the American Lung Association. It educates and empowers children through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management.

“We have the opportunity to impact these students directly. The best part about the program is that it actually works,” said Brian Nwokorie, a UHCOP student and member of the Student National Pharmaceutical Organization (SNPhA).

Walnut Bend Elementary School in West Houston and Harvard Elementary in North Houston are the first schools where pharmacy students from UH and Texas Southern University volunteered to share the program.

“Through this class and team building exercises, these students develop a sense of motivation, pertinent skills and confidence to assist with controlling their asthma,” said Cynthia Tanner, the Walnut Bend school nurse.

Asthma is a life-long disease without a known cure that affects nearly one in 13 school-aged children. It is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to a chronic illness. Students in the United States miss almost 10 million school days each year due to asthma. It’s also the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15.

Through weekly participation in this class, the students diagnosed with asthma learn how to better manage and control the disease by:

  • Learning what can set off an asthma attack and taking the needed steps to prevent it
  • Recognizing asthma attack symptoms right away and taking steps to feel better (Learning to properly use their short- and long-term controller medication devices)
  • Talking about and solving asthma problems with their parents, doctors, nurses, teachers and friends
  • Feeling confident about taking care of their asthma symptoms and triggers on a daily basis

“We saw a need, and we’re trying to fill it. There’s no course credit, we’re just doing what we love and making a difference in the community,” said Nwokorie. “There’s a sense of fulfillment in being an educator. Educators are leaders who build the future. If it helps even one child, then it’s worth it.”