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Open Airways for Schools (OAS)

A program of the American Lung Association, implemented in Office of School Health, Department of Health Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Lessons Learned

Staff involved with OAS in Anne Arundel County identified several key lessons they have learned from their involvement in the program:

Pre-Packaged program materials are invaluable.

Because developing and evaluating a program is resource intensive, using an already developed and pre-packaged validated program is easier and more cost effective. OAS staff indicate that the program has been successful in Anne Arundel County in large part because it is an already developed and validated program and thus easily replicable.

Nurses are key to success.

It is important to have a school nursing program which enables nurses to be in schools daily to operate the program and monitor students. School nurses are the backbone of OAS in Anne Arundel County; they are the educators, champions, marketers, and facilitators. They operate the program day-to-day and provide the most informed feedback on its implementation. It is also important to have health assistants to relieve nurses when they teach the OAS classes. Not all schools have school nurses, however, and trained community volunteers can serve well as instructors. Although school nurses play a pivotal role in the Open Airways for Schools program in Anne Arundel County, the program is designed to be delivered by a variety of instructors including health educators and teachers.

Classes should be kept small whenever possible.

OAS nurses stress the importance of small classes with no more than five to eight students. One nurse stated that she once had 22 children in a class, which made it difficult to give children individualized attention and ensure that each student was comprehending the information on asthma management.

Build positive relationships.

Prior to program implementation, the preliminary work of developing relationships with principals, parents, and the community is critical. Principal support is key to making school-based programs work. The nurses who have principal support generally receive faculty support; such support makes it easier to remove students from their regularly scheduled classes. Working closely with faculty is also important. To involve school faculty and staff, school nurses in Anne Arundel County have conducted OAS awareness sessions with them. This strategy has proven particularly effective with physical education teachers.

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