184532 Can we enhance adult environmental health literacy at primary schools and improve asthma by targeting school nurses? A pilot study in DeKalb County, Georgia

Monday, October 27, 2008: 11:30 AM

Derek G. Shendell, DEnv, MPH , Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, UMDNJ-SPH (and EOHSI, and consultant to GSU IPH), Piscataway, GA
Melannie S. Alexander , Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Yuqi Huang, MD , Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Amy Jewett , Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA
Danna L. Sanders , Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Jianhua Yang, MS, PhD , Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Student health, well-being and productivity are determined in part by attending school daily. Increased annual average daily attendance (ADA) increases public funding for school district-based enrichment programs. Asthma is the #1 cause of American school absenteeism due to chronic illness. However, we can control asthma through proper clinical and environmental management and education services at schools, day care, homes, and local clinics if key people are informed. Health—and science including environmental health sciences (EHS)—literacy are key to student asthma management at schools. EHS issues regarding asthma are complex and may include identifying and reducing levels of, or preventing exposure to, triggers; exposure to some triggers may also lead to other acute and chronic adverse health outcomes of present concern. Previous health education/promotion research on health literacy suggested appropriate interactive workshops oral presentations, group discussions and visual aids are most effective. Therefore, a schools/community-based EHS exposure reduction/prevention training prior to the school year could result in an immediate increase in basic knowledge and awareness of school and community EHS, help identify resources, and prioritize community environmental concerns. We present content and outcomes of a training and “EHS Priorities Questionnaire” conducted August 2007 in DeKalb County, Georgia for lead nurses and other interested district health professionals. The questionnaire was also answered by principals, teachers (4th-5th grades) and nurses or clinic assistants working in seven randomly selected, consenting schools participating in the main study on student attendance, tardiness and leaving early with various reasons assessed by surveillance including multiple chronic diseases.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of this session, the public health and clinical participant (learner) will be able to: 1.) Recognize how environmental health literacy is a component of both science and health literacy, and different from general literacy, all of which are relevant to schools; 2.) Describe why school personnel, specifically nurses and clinic assistants, should also be targeted professionals for the enhancement of awareness and knowledge in environmental health in addition to doctors and hospital-based nurses; 3.) Identify the basic components of our school-based environmental education intervention pilot study’s training/workshop and questionnaire, and present a summary of main survey findings.

Keywords: School-Based Programs, Environmental Exposures