Campaign to help asthmatic children lead productive lives, reduce hospital visits, stem school absenteeism
CHICAGO – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority embarked upon a national multi-year campaign to educate and enlighten the community about how to manage asthma through its Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative. The program was launched in Tampa on October 20 as part of National Head Start Awareness Month.
The Sorority will then galvanize thousands of members who will fan out to the nearly 1,000 communities worldwide where Alpha Kappa Alpha has chapters. The initiative is expected to reach millions of people afflicted with the disease, with a particular emphasis on reaching minority children.
This campaign is being carried out in partnership with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a program under the National Institutes of Health. NICHD conducts and supports research on all stages of human development, from preconception to adulthood, to better understand the health of children, adults, families, and communities.
Through AKA’s Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative and, in accordance with its collaboration with the NICHD and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Alpha Kappa Alpha will raise awareness among parents and childhood educators about the treatment of childhood asthma through educational activities, informational forums, health fairs and screenings. The NICHD will participate in the forums and educational outreach efforts and will disseminate information on treatment options as part of the thrust.
According to Attorney Carolyn House Stewart, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s newly-installed International President, Alpha Kappa Alpha was motivated to wage a public education offensive when the Sorority became aware of the pernicious effect asthma has on children’s quality of life and on the nation’s economy.
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), asthma accounts for more visits to the Emergency Room, costs the nation $3.2 billion to treat annually, afflicts 5.6 million school-aged children and can lead to death. Asthma disproportionately afflicts low-income, minority children, a population most vulnerable to the ravages of the disease but a population with few outlets where parents can be informed about the disease and how to manage it. Reaching this population is the core mission of AKA’s Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative.
By definition, asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease in which the airways of the lungs constrict, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. It is a potentially debilitating disease that results in “episodes” when the disease is triggered. The NCCDPHP reports that tobacco smoke, dust mites, furred and feathered animals, molds, chemicals and strong odors in the school environment can trigger asthma attacks.
However, according to the NICHD, children with asthma can lead full and productive lives through proper diagnosis, control of triggers that spark episodes and through overall management. This can be achieved through an aggressive public outreach effort, which is the purpose of the Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative.
Mrs. Stewart said Alpha Kappa Alpha was motivated to wage a public campaign because of her familiarity with the disease, because asthma was becoming an epidemic and because it is a disease that is manageable, with a few lifestyle adjustments. With this knowledge, Attorney Stewart contacted the National Institutes of Health for statistical support. As a result of this outreach, the partnership with NICHD and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) evolved. With the data the agencies provided, Stewart galvanized the Sorority’s membership around this program. The overarching goal of the campaign is to improve the quality of life of children afflicted, boost their attendance in school, and save the country money.
The initiative is a major program under AKA’s new administration, whose theme is “Global Leadership Through Timeless Service.”
The effort is being spearheaded by the Sorority’s Program Committee, which is chaired by Attorney Sharon Bridges of Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Diane L. Adams, M.D., a member of the Sorority, is Project Director of the campaign.
“Every child should be afforded the opportunity to live life to the fullest, including those with asthma,” said President Stewart. “By marshaling AKA’s members around asthma management, we will impact the quality of life of all affected by the ravages of this disease. In so doing, Alpha Kappa Alpha will live up to its 102-year mission of providing service to the community.”