Start with a hospital-school partnership, add a mobile van funded by the hospital’s foundation, and include expert medical guidance from allergists and immunologists: This combination has helped children in St. Louis increase their activity levels and miss fewer school days because they’re better managing their asthma. 

St. Louis Children’s Hospital launched the Healthy Kids Express Asthma Program in 2009 to address the number 1 diagnosis in the St. Louis public school district and number 1 reason for students missing school. Children learn the signs and symptoms of the disease, improve their ability to use medications correctly, and follow an asthma action plan. Program goals include increasing physician visits, improving school attendance, and decreasing emergency department visits and hospitalizations due to asthma. 

The Healthy Kids Express van, which parks outside schools, solved a problem of finding the appropriate space inside school buildings. In addition to medical treatment, the program provides children with two aerochambers to use with their inhaled medications and allergy encasements for their bedding, at no cost. For students considered high risk, asthma coaches offer help, and social workers are available to families for additional support as needed. 

A multidisciplinary team ensures goals and services address the social determinants of health. Washington University clinicians provide medical information to the program, which is then shared with the child’s doctor, school, and pharmacist. 

Results have been excellent. In 2016, students participating at least two years in the program demonstrated a 13% reduction in school absenteeism from the previous year. The program has helped decrease the number of pediatric ED visits and inpatient admissions due to asthma. 

This program is among five that received the 2018 NOVA Award, which recognizes AHA member-led initiatives that are addressing challenging issues and improving community health. You can read the full stories about St. Louis Children’s Hospital and other 2018 NOVA Award recipients on

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