Boston's leading health and education organizations launch asthma campaign
October 4, 2006
Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined with representatives from some of Boston's leading health and education organizations today to announce a new public health initiative aimed at helping local parents and caregivers better manage a growing childhood health problem: asthma.
Menino visited Roxbury's Orchard Gardens K-8 School this morning for the inaugural presentation of a traveling children's play on asthma that is one of the key components of the "Kids with Asthma Can..." Asthma Management Campaign. Co-sponsored by WGBH, the Boston Public Health Commission, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston Children's Museum and the Boston Public Library, the city-wide campaign will use characters from WGBH's Emmy Award-winning children's series, Arthur and the Emmy-nominated Postcards from Buster to raise awareness of effective asthma management skills, with a special focus on families living in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roxbury and the South End--the five Boston neighborhoods with the highest rates of childhood asthma.
"This is the largest single campaign on asthma we've ever launched in the City of Boston and I commend all the partners who worked on this endeavor, especially Arthur and Buster," Mayor Menino said before introducing the interactive play, which uses Arthur characters to teach kids about asthma and how to manage its symptoms. "The important message of this campaign is this: Kids with asthma deserve to have a good quality of life. Playing, having fun, and getting a good night's sleep should be goals for all children with asthma."
A growing health crisis
In August 2005, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a study indicating that nearly 10 percent of the state's children in kindergarten through eighth grade had been diagnosed with asthma. In several Boston schools, more than 30 percent of the student population had the chronic disease.
"Asthma is the leading chronic disease affecting children in the United States, accounting for an estimated 14 million missed school days each year," said Margaret Reid, director of the Boston Public Health Commission's Asthma Prevention & Control Program. "What's more, Boston has double the statewide average of asthma hospitalizations for children under the age of five."
"By providing parents and caregivers with information on effective asthma management practices," Reid said, "we hope to increase the number of children who have their asthma under control and decrease the number of asthma-related hospitalizations."
Campaign organizers also hope to dispel some common misconceptions about asthma, such as the erroneous belief that children with asthma shouldn't play sports or that asthma medication should only be taken when a child is experiencing an asthma attack.
"Children's Hospital is committed to helping kids with asthma lead healthy and active lives," said James Mandell, MD, president and chief executive officer of Children's Hospital Boston. "We are delighted to be involved in this innovative partnership and campaign to reach parents and caregivers with positive messages about asthma management. We want families to understand that children with well-managed asthma do not need to miss out on learning, playing and being a kid."
Components of the Kids with Asthma Can... Asthma Management Campaign include:
- Asthma family activity booklet (available in English and Spanish): 30,000 copies of this helpful resource developed by WGBH will be distributed to parents and caregivers throughout the city of Boston. In addition to offering information about asthma triggers, good asthma management and community resources, the booklet also includes a special storybook version of the Arthur television episode "Buster's Breathless," which recounts how Arthur's best friend, Buster, learns how to deal with his asthma.
- Traveling Buster asthma play: This original, interactive play featuring Buster and other Arthur characters uses drama and humor to help children and adults understand that kids with asthma can lead healthy, active lives. Produced by City Stage Co. in conjunction with the Boston Children's Museum, this traveling play will be performed at the museum's theater as well as in Boston neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma.
- Campaign music video: WGBH has produced a special asthma music video featuring an original Kids with Asthma Can... campaign theme song. To be distributed by the campaign's partners, the video features Arthur's friend, Buster, singing about all the activities in which he can participate even though he has asthma.
- Media Campaign: WGBH will conduct a local media campaign to raise awareness of the Kids with Asthma Can... initiative. Comprised of billboards, transit ads and public service announcements, this media campaign will be centered on Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, the South End and Jamaica Plain--the five Boston neighborhoods with the highest rates of childhood asthma.
- Healthy Family Nights: The Boston Public Library will host Healthy Family Nights at six branch libraries located in Boston neighborhoods with the highest rates of childhood asthma.
- Annotated bookmarks, booklists and asthma books: The Boston Public Library will distribute Kids with Asthma Can... bookmarks featuring asthma-related titles for kids while also making available two annotated booklists on its Web site: one featuring books on asthma and general health for kids, and another offering health-related titles for parents and caregivers. The Kids with Asthma Can... campaign also will donate two asthma-themed children's books to school nurses, health centers and each of the Boston Public Library's 27 neighborhood branches.
- Parent/Educator Trainings: The Boston Public Health Commission and Children's Hospital Boston will incorporate campaign messages and materials into their ongoing educational outreach efforts.
- Encore Broadcast of Arthur: "Buster's Breathless": In conjunction with the campaign, WGBH will air an encore presentation of this Arthur episode in which Buster learns he has asthma. Air date: Monday, October 9 at 7:30am and 4pm on WGBH 2.
"One of WGBH's core missions is to use media to help children grow," said Brigid Sullivan, vice president of children's programming for WGBH. "That's why we're pleased to be able to leverage the appeal and popularity of our programs and characters to help initiate a dialogue about asthma, and to spur real change in our community."
The Kids with Asthma Can...Asthma Management Campaign will continue through March 2007, with play performances and parent/teacher trainings held in the five neighborhoods with high asthma rates. Researchers at the Boston Public Health Commission will then conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine the campaign's effectiveness in helping families improve their children's asthma management.
The Kids with Asthma Can...Asthma Management Campaign is presented by Children's Hospital Boston, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Children's Museum, Boston Public Library and WGBH. Funding for the project is provided by Partnership for a Nation of Learners, an initiative of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
About the Project Partners
WGBH informs, inspires, and entertains millions of people throughout New England. Boston's last remaining independent TV station, WGBH is the leading producer of award-winning PBS prime-time programs and online content, a major producer for public radio, and a pioneer in educational multimedia and services that make media accessible for people with disabilities. WGBH's television channels are WGBH 2, WGBH 44, WGBH World, WGBH Create, 'GBH Kids, WGBH On Demand, WGBH High Definition, and Boston Kids & Family TV. WGBH also holds the license for WGBY 57 in Springfield, MA. WGBH's radio services are WGBH 89.7 (on Nantucket, heard on WNCK 89.5) and The Cape and Islands NPR® Stations WCAI 90.1 WNAN 91.1 and WZAI 94.3. WGBH's Web site is www.wgbh.org.
Boston Public Health Commission
The BPHC serves as the city's board of health and can trace its roots to 1799 when Paul Revere was named its first health officer. Under the direction of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Commission has maintained a strong public health mission, prioritizing such issues as chronic disease prevention and management, the reduction of racial disparities, equal access to health care and substance abuse treatment. The Mayor created the city's first Asthma Prevention Office in 1999. For more information, visit www.bphc.org.
Children's Hospital Boston
Children's Hospital Boston is the nation's premier pediatric medical center. Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, today it is a 347-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. More than 100 outpatient specialty clinics are located at Children's. Children's Hospital Boston is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, home to the world's leading pediatric research enterprise, and the largest provider of health care to the children of Massachusetts. For more information about the hospital visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
Boston Public Library
For more than 150 years, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America with revolutionary ideas and famous firsts. Established in 1848, the BPL was the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library and the first to have a children's room. Today, the BPL boasts 27 neighborhood branches, free Internet access, two unique restaurants, an award-winning website www.bpl.org and an on-line store featuring reproductions of the BPL's priceless photographs and artwork.
Boston Children's Museum
Boston Children's Museum exists to help children understand and enjoy the world in which they live. It is a private, non-profit, educational institution that is recognized internationally as a research and development center and pacesetter for children's exhibitions, educational programs and curriculum. Boston Children's Museum focuses on three key areas of expertise: visitor programs, teacher resources and early childhood education. More information about Boston Children's Museum can be found at www.BostonChildrensMuseum.org.
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