A brainstorming session on potential areas of focus for the Respiratory Care program at Missouri Southern may have people breathing easier.

“We identified that there seems to be a need for more education in the pediatric asthma arena, primarily at the school level,” says Glenda Pippin, director of the Respiratory Care department.

There were several state-funded grants available about five years ago for asthma education in schools, but they have since expired.

“A lot of those services where therapists were able to go into schools have gone away,” says Pippin. “Some of these kids don’t see doctors routinely, so sometimes it’s the school nurse who’s the person that might be able to intervene and get them a little extra care or maybe a referral.”

The department will host a symposium on pediatric asthma from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in the North End Zone Facility. It will feature speakers and other programs designed to raise awareness of the issue, and will target school nurses, EMS workers, doctors and others in the health care field.

“There are so many kids who do have (asthma), so the schools need education,” says Sherry Whiteman, an instructor in the program and president of the Missouri Society for Respiratory Care. “The education that is provided so far doesn’t focus on pediatric asthma … a lot of it is focused on adult care.”

Whiteman says there is a high incidence of pediatric asthma in the Southwest Missouri region due to high levels of allergens.

“If we can educate them as kids about this disease, they’re going to do a lot better as adults,” she says. “And if we can train (school nurses) and show them how to help kids manage it well, that’s going to do a lot for a patient.”