By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Denili Hill breathes into a tube connected to a computer to test his lung function. By looking at the rambunctious six-year-old, a student at Kituwah Academy, you would never know he has suffered from the effects of asthma since he was a young child.
“We used to have to take him to the emergency room a lot,” said his mother Michelle Long.
But, things are looking better for Denili. He has been working with Melinda Shuler with the Mission Health System Regional Asthma Disease Management program, and his breathing has improved dramatically.
“She (Shuler) started adjusting his medications,” said Long, “and he hasn’t been to the ER since. He is doing a lot better.”
Shuler currently manages two dozen youth asthma cases in Cherokee and another dozen in the Snowbird Community. She visited the Kituwah Academy on Wednesday, May 2 to teach the students about asthma and to dispel some misconceptions about the disease.
“Asthma tends to run in families,” Shuler told the students. “If mommy and daddy have asthma, kids are twice as likely to have asthma.”
She discussed the processes of the respiratory system and showed the students examples of diseased lungs as well.
Shuler showed an episode of the popular cartoon Arthur entitled “Buster’s Breathless” which dealt with the challenges some children with asthma face each day.
The visit was in conjunction with Asthma Awareness Month (May) and was a day after World Asthma Day.
“We embrace the National Asthma guidelines in our program and one component of that is education that we provide to the students and to the parents,” said Shuler. “Another component is the environmental piece where we go into their home and do extensive environmental assessments to see what may be triggering the asthma in the child.”
She said sometimes it is hard to figure out what is triggering asthma attacks in children and going into the home helps identify possible triggers. “Each child’s triggers are different so we work with them on an individual basis to come up with and identify the triggers and then come up with solutions and avoidance measures.”
Shuler went on to say, “One other huge component of our program is our dedicated staff and the advocacy role that we play in addressing the social determinants of health.”
And, Shuler and staff are doing a fine job as evidenced by a recent acknowledgment by the EPA which named the Mission Health program as the premier winner in the health care category of the 2012 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.
“Asthma is a disease that touches the lives of American families every day,” said EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement on the award winners. “EPA is working hard to clean the air we breathe and reduce the environmental causes of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. As we mark Asthma Awareness Month, it’s important for parents and children to learn more about the disease and its triggers, so we can prevent asthma attacks and better protect our health and our children’s health.”
The EPA states that 26 million Americans, including 7 million children, are affected by asthma.
To learn more about asthma, visit http://www.epa.gov/asthma/.