This post was written by CHC member Jennifer Devries.
Series: Goals of Service
Jennifer serves at the Respiratory Health Association as an Asthma Educator.
I serve as an Asthma Educator with the Respiratory Health Association and offer education to students with asthma in 3rd through 8th grades, along with parents, staff and other community members throughout Cook County.
Great, now what does this mean?
I arrive to my desk at 8:00 am to an excel list of 259 schools and try to schedule asthma education classes in each one. My outreach fills just a third of our program’s scope. There are two other Asthma Educators, Ashley and Kristen. Together we get excited about scheduling a class—nurses are hard to reach! We eat chocolate to mend our frustrations and giggle at our students’ endearing yet honest questions. Our support for one another has fostered a culture of close collaboration and learning. I look forward to my future growth as a community member alongside Ashley, Kristen, and the other Chicago Health Corps members.
I am excited about building relationships with students, as this is my first time providing health education to elementary school-aged youth. I want to explore ways to form a more equal teacher-student relationship despite differences in age and knowledge. In many ways, people are experts in their own health. My students’ experiences managing their asthma offers important peer education and support. The individual and shared experiences among students will help facilitate class discussion. I look to supplement what each student already understands. With each class, I hope to develop the skills that encourage a classroom environment in which everyone is simultaneously a teacher and a student.
To improve the classroom environment, I want to deepen my understanding of how health education fits into the larger structure of asthma management. Maintaining controlled asthma requires the coordination of many aspects of a person's life. Challenges to controlled asthma include:
• Elements in the home environment that can trigger asthma attacks (e.g. living with a smoker, mold, roaches)
• Neighborhood violence and stress resulting in increased asthma symptoms
• Limited access to healthy foods contributing to poor nutrition
• Reduced access to healthcare and medication
• Negative attitudes toward asthma leading to poor self-management
I want to use my year with RHA and CHC to explore ways to address care management in a school-based setting within the structures that facilitate and obstruct controlled asthma.