Tobacco Prevention Program Newsletter, Summer 2009
By Paul Zemann
Public Health programs team up for HeadStart
The Asthma and Tobacco Prevention Programs of Public Health have teamed up to snuff out a leading asthma trigger for families enrolled in Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease and is of disproportionate prevalence in low income groups -- the population that Head Start/ECEAP serves. Some studies report that as many as 40% of children enrolled in ECEAP or Head Start suffer from some form of asthma.
Tobacco smoke is a known trigger for asthma attacks, yet many children with asthma are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. By taking actions to reduce exposure to asthma triggers and making their homes and cars smoke-free, families can help prevent serious health risks such as frequent and severe asthma attacks among asthmatic children, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, and acute middle ear infections.
Public Health's Tobacco Prevention and King County Asthma Programs are working with Puget Sound Educational Service District (ESD) to support Head Start and ECEAP Centers in helping families take control of asthma and the triggers that make symptoms worse. Head Start and ECEAP leaders see the children's health at the center of their work and are happy to have this information. At a recent day-long training for King and Pierce County ECEAP and Head Start staff, one center director remarked that, "all the information I received today will be much appreciated by our parents. I will share everything I learned." This sentiment was echoed by other teachers and family support workers who enthusiastically committed to share the information during home visits, "especially with those families who live with this problem every day".
Dozens of ECEAP and Head Start Centers are embracing the new tools and outreach techniques offered through the partnership of Puget Sound ESD and Public Health, called Smoke-free Living for a Healthy Family. This partnership supports staff in outreach to parents about the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke including asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections. The Partnership is working for families too. According to one family specialist, "We provide educational information to our families on a wide range of topics. Often we're left to wonder if the information we distribute is effective, but we've received positive feedback from parents who appreciated the smoke-free living information". Based on positive responses such as these, the Partnership continues to grow in King County. Five new education centers will start outreach in 2009.