Faculty provide asthma & allergy education to community

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Lewis University faculty provide asthma and allergy education to child caregivers

Published: February 24, 2009.

(Left to right) Anne McShane,
assistant professor of nursing,
discusses breathing issues with
Lewis University students
Jennifer Tade and Chelsea West.

Asthma is the leading chronic childhood disease in the U.S. and the asthma hospitalization rate in Chicago is nearly double the national average, according to the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Two Lewis University nursing faculty are trying to reverse that trend through their work with the Diocese of Joliet Catholic Charities Head Start Program (Head Start). Sheila Berkemeyer, MSN, RN and Anne McShane, MSN, RN presented asthma and allergy educational programs to 30 family and staff caregivers of more than 750 children enrolled in the Head Start early childhood education program.

For over eight years, the two pediatric nurses have offered professional consultation and provided annual “Health Institute” training on Pediatric Illnesses to the staff caregivers of Head Start. In August of 2008, they conducted staff training on the management of asthma episodes and demonstrated the proper way to administer medications. Linda Paschall, Manager of Health and Nutrition Services for the Catholic Charities’ Head Start program, commented, “It was very, very good.”

Periodic discussions and training sessions with staff helped increase asthma and allergy awareness, but Berkemeyer and McShane sought to extend their outreach. Berkemeyer said, “We wanted to take it a step further and educate the family caregivers as well.”

This year, the purpose of the newly developed presentations was to identify and address the learning needs of caregivers who manage asthma and allergy symptoms in a group of high-risk children. According to McShane, “Providing a community-based educational program that is culturally sensitive and presented in the native language of the audience is essential.” Educational materials, PowerPoint visual aids, and equipment demonstrations, with an interpreter on hand, provided in Spanish and English for the family caregivers helped ensure understanding of the information. Some information covered included allergy prevention and management of asthma symptoms. The two faculty distributed Walgreens gift cards to those who attended, in an effort to encourage participation from as many people as possible.

Financial support for the staff and family caregiver presentations came from the Colonel Stephen S. and Lyla Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research. Pamela A. Martyn-Nemeth, co-director of the center, commented, “It is a research study that addresses the needs of a vulnerable population and strengthens the community partnership they have with Catholic Charities.”

A Catholic University sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers nearly 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The mid-sized university is being honored for the fifth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. For more information, please visit www.lewisu.edu.

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