Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ celebrated World Asthma Day, 1 May 2018, with the launch of the new 'Teachers' Asthma Toolkit' and a national schools educational campaign.

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St Benedict’s School, Khandallah, Wellington, was one of 90 schools from across the country to take part in World Asthma Day.

World Asthma Day is celebrated around the world to raise the profile and continued education of asthma. One in seven children, and one in nine adults, have asthma in New Zealand. It’s also estimated that 586,000 school days are lost each year due to asthma related symptoms in children.   

The revolutionary new online ‘Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit’ is a first for New Zealand and has been developed over the past twelve months. The toolkit was designed for teachers to have all the important information about asthma in one place. The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has been working alongside ‘Cognition Education Group’ in order to launch this new online tool. The ‘Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit’ is accessed via an interactive website www.learnaboutlungs.org.nz

Letitia O’Dwyer, CEO of Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, said: “We’re running a big campaign this year on World Asthma Day to really raise the profile around asthma and education. There’s lots of activities going on, and we are extremely proud that we have been able to launch the ‘Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit’, our new online resource, a first for New Zealand. There just hasn’t been the right tools to help and assist the teaching profession with the increasing numbers of pupils with asthma. How should you respond in school to an asthma emergency? What are the common school triggers? What are the correct processes and procedures? How can we teach our children about this? It’s unfair to expect teachers to know what to do without that support and knowledge. Now we can provide this.”   

Teresa Demetriou, Head of Education and Research at Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, who has been leading the project, said: “It’s great to see all the work finally come together to create this fantastic online tool for teachers. It’s up to us in the medical profession to provide simple, easy to use resources that could well save lives.”   

Amongst a whole host of benefits the new ‘Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit’ will cover how asthma affects education, what asthma is, the common triggers, how asthma is treated and what to do in an emergency. The toolkit takes an integrated approach so it can be used as part of a teacher learning experience about asthma and the basis for staff meeting discussion; but can be incorporated into the classroom if teachers desire. It can be used across the board in pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, although the main focus has been on children aged 11 years and under, where asthma levels are the highest.   

As part of World Asthma Day the Foundation also ran a national awareness and fund-raising campaign, inviting schools from across the country to take part in fun and educational activities utilising balloons, which are a simple and effective way to help educate about breathing. Over 90 schools signed up to support the campaign.

The national schools campaign attracted much interest; with the school that raises the most funds winning a visit from Erin Simpson, a well-known children’s celebrity from television shows such as Sticky TV, What Now and the Erin Simpson Show as well as winning a range of books for their school library from Scholastic. 

St Benedict’s School, based in Khandallah, Wellington participated in a range of activities to help raise awareness of asthma. Michael Hinds, Principal of St Benedict’s School, comments: “With a nationwide average of one in seven children having asthma, the need for a Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit is timely and positive. The new teacher toolkit will really help our teachers to feel more confident when dealing with students who have asthma. The toolkit gives them the opportunity to take what they’ve learnt themselves and use it in the classroom if they wish. Importantly, all our teachers will now know what to do in an emergency. The toolkit is simple to use and practical."

View the VLOG of Mr Hinds speaking about the Teachers' Asthma Toolkit: