Girl Scouts Learn About Asthma
By Terry Volsko, MHHS, RRT, FAARC
Girl Scouts is an organization that provides programs and services in an accepting and nurturing environment to help girls and young women build character and skills for success. Committed adult volunteers or leaders help girls develop qualities like leadership, strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.
Girl Scout Patch Programs provide fun-filled activities that help to motivate scouts to learn new things and make improvements that affect their community and beyond. A patch is awarded at the end of each program to girls completing all of the activities. The girls display their patch on their vest or sash to demonstrate their participation and communicate their accomplishments.
The Asthma Awareness Program: Helping Girls Breathe Easier
The Asthma Awareness Program: Helping Girls Breathe Easier is a patch program that helps girls learn about the respiratory system. This program was first developed by the Asthma Coalition of Long Island with the collaboration of Girl Scouts of the USA and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The initial program was supported by grant funding from the New York State Department of Health and the American Lung Association of New York State. This interactive program was designed to help Girl Scouts learn about asthma triggers as well as how to make healthy lifestyle choices such as avoiding cigarette smoke, eating healthy foods, and practicing relaxation techniques. The program features workbooks and other activities girls can complete to earn the patch and has been available to Girl Scouts of all ages since 2005.
Learning through community partnerships
In the spring of 2011, a community partnership was formed between Youngstown State University, Akron Children’s Hospital, and the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio to address the asthma management issues for children in Northeastern Ohio. Using the content in the asthma awareness patch program, this group hosted a one day event at Youngstown State University.
The program was open to Girl Scouts between the ages of 5-17 from a four-county area surrounding the city of Youngstown, one of seven Ohio metropolitan areas ranked in the top 100 most challenging places to live with asthma in the United States. The girls were grouped by age for a series of 20 minute activity-filled educational sessions. The girls learned how the lungs work with and without asthma and received instruction in asthma triggers and medication use, as well as the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
The event wrapped up with an interactive session in which the girls learned how to put all of the information together to help themselves or someone they know with asthma.
The healthy living portions of the program were conducted by an exercise scientist and registered dietitian. The respiratory and asthma disease management parts were conducted by certified asthma educators from the Community Outreach, Education and Support Center at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.
The program was supported through the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF) and Youngstown State’s University Council Research Grant.
To find out about offering The Asthma Awareness Program: Helping Girls Breathe Easier in your community, contact your local Girl Scouts Council.Terry Volsko is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Canfield, OH. She currently serves as director of respiratory care at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, OH.