Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Peak Performance USA


by Shawna Strickland, PhD, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, AE-C, FAARC

The prevalence of asthma continues to rise in the United States.  Approximately 25 million Americans have asthma and almost half of those people have had a severe episode in the last year. The direct costs from visits to the doctor, medications, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits added to the indirect costs of missed work and missed school days add up to about $56 billion each year.1 About 8.3% of children have been diagnosed with asthma and most are school aged. A 2005 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics cited asthma as the leading cause of missed school days.2

Empowering children with asthma and their families to be able to manage the child’s asthma can lead to improved health and fewer missed school and work days as well as reduced healthcare costs. It is ideal for these interventions to be provided in the school, as this is where the child spends a large portion of his/her day. Research has demonstrated that models of asthma education provided in schools are effective to provide education and reduce the burden of asthma.3 Knowing that taking asthma education to schools is an effective learning model, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) developed Peak Performance USA.

Peak Performance USA is a free program that provides structured education to improve asthma self-management. This national asthma awareness program is provided by health care practitioners in the school to reach the child, the family, and the school staff. It focuses on improving everyone’s knowledge of  issues such as being aware of asthma signs and symptoms as well as how to respond to exacerbations; understanding which triggers are problematic for the child and how to avoid them; and promoting a positive, supportive environment in which the child can learn and grow.  Many respiratory therapists from RT departments across the United States have implemented Peak Performance USA in the schools in their communities and continue to provide this necessary education.

The Peak Performance USA program provides an exceptional amount of asthma information and resources. For each school registered, the respiratory therapy department will receive a demonstration kit that includes valved holding chambers, peak flow meters, and other essential training materials. The program’s website contains pre-developed presentation slides, patient forms like asthma action plans and peak flow trending charts, and asthma guides to help the child, family, and school staff in their quest to control asthma. The website also has valuable information for families, including links to groups that can help people who lack prescription coverage get their asthma medications.

Families can use AARC’s Peak Performance USA website to request the assistance of a respiratory therapist to work with the child’s school and establish a positive environment and provide the necessary education for asthma self-management. Visit today to learn how to establish this successful and vital program in your community.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma in the US: growing every year. CDC Vital Signs 2011.
  2. Bonilla S, Kehl S, Kwong KYC, Morphew T, Kachru R, Jones CA. School absenteeism in children with asthma in a Los Angeles inner city school. J Ped 2005;147(6):802-806.
  3. Cicutto L, Gleason M, Szefler SJ. Establishing school-centered asthma programs. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2014;134(6):1223-1230.

Dr. Shawna Strickland is associate executive director of education at the
AARC headquartered in Irving, TX. A Registered Respiratory Therapist, she is also a Certified Asthma Educator and Fellow of the AARC.

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