Schools May Be Unprepared for Chronic Health Emergencies

Health management plans for conditions like asthma and food allergies could save lives

(RxWiki News) Some school districts may be unprepared for emergencies related to chronic conditions like asthma and allergies, a new study found. The authors of the study called for more health management plans in schools.

Only a small number of kids had emergency plans on file at school, the study found. And children from racial or ethnic minorities and low-income families were most at risk.

The study authors called for improved chronic disease reporting and access to school health management plans.

"Submit an emergency plan to your child's school."

According to the study — published Sept. 8 in the journal Pediatrics —asthma and food allergies affected 14 and 8 percent of US school-age children, respectively.

Lead study author Ruchi Gupta, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said having health management plans is crucial for schools.

“Given the amount of time kids spend in school, it’s critical for school staff, clinicians and parents to make sure there’s a health management plan in place for students with health conditions," Dr. Gupta said in a press release. "Not having a health management plan leaves students without a vital safety net during the school day. With kids now returning to school, this is the time to get it done.”

For schools to be prepared to handle health emergencies, each child with a chronic condition should have a doctor-prepared health management plan on file, the study authors wrote.

A health management plan specifies medications and emergency requirements for a child with a chronic condition.

The researchers reviewed demographic and health data for Chicago Public School (CPS) students who had asthma or food allergies.

Of the students with chronic health conditions, 18,287 had asthma and 4,250 had a doctor-diagnosed food allergy. Only 24.3 percent of students with asthma and 50.9 percent with food allergies had plans on file, the study authors noted.

About 40 percent of students with food allergies also had asthma. Of the students who had asthma, about 9 percent also had food allergies, the authors noted.

Students who had both conditions were more likely than those with just one to have an emergency medical plan on file.

Also, students were less likely to have a plan in place if they were of a racial or ethnic minority or if they were considered low income, the study authors found.

Students were considered low income if they received free or reduced-price lunches.

The study authors noted that this study shed light on the underuse of school emergency health management plans and pointed out that the most underserved students were in the most danger.

"This is definitely a national problem in schools around the country," Dr. Gupta said. "We think the situation in Chicago schools is representative of schools everywhere. It’s critical for all students with a chronic condition to have a health management plan in place at school.”

Mylan Specialty, LP and the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 16, 2014