May is Asthma Awareness Month, and the Louisiana Department of Health is taking this opportunity to commend three Louisiana school districts for achieving asthma-friendly designation. DeSoto, East Feliciana and St. Bernard parishes have implemented policies to help their students breathe easier and better.

"All children, including those with asthma, deserve every opportunity to own their own health and reach their full potential,” said LDH Secretary Bruce Greenstein. “I commend these three school districts for stepping up and taking the necessary steps to provide a healthier learning environment.”

In a statement released this week marking Asthma Awareness Month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius highlighted the work of these three Louisiana districts.

“Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled,” said J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary for the Department’s Office of Public Health. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to educate Louisiana’s schools about the ways they can help students with asthma stay healthy and where they belong – in the classrooms. We are looking forward to working with the school districts in other regions to ensure more schools are better protecting their students.”    

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound), chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. It reduces the amount of air that can pass, making it hard to breathe; in severe instances, asthma can be fatal. According to 2009 Louisiana Hospital Inpatient Discharge Data, asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization for children under the age of fifteen.

Statistics show that it isn’t only young children whose school attendance is impacted by asthma. The 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that more than 22 percent of Louisiana high school students reported having missed at least one day of school due to asthma.

To combat these alarming statistics, LDH's Asthma Management and Prevention Program implemented the Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative in the four Louisiana regions that have the highest asthma prevalence and hospitalization rates - New Orleans area, Capital area, and the Northwest and Northeast. LDH seeks to educate school personnel on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma, which will improve school attendance and keep students in classrooms, where they can learn.
In accordance with grant funding, LDH will extend an offer of participation to one school district per region per year for the next three years.   

The schools in Desoto, East Feliciana and St. Bernard parishes are supporting students and staff with asthma; adopting asthma-friendly policies and procedures; coordinating services with physicians to increase asthma action plans for all students with asthma; and providing continued asthma education for students and staff in collaboration with the Asthma Management and Prevention Program.

There are things that everyone can do to create healthier environments for people with asthma. To learn more, visit

 The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.