Education News

Ambulances Treat Asthma Attacks In Houston School Zones, Costing Millions

Researchers with Rice University found that those ambulances are more likely to treat asthma in school areas without a nurse.

HISD elementary schools without a full time nurse have higher rates of asthma attacks.
HISD elementary schools without a full time nurse have higher rates of asthma attacks, according to a new study from Rice University.

Almost every other day, an emergency ambulance rushes to a Houston school zone to treat a child suffering an asthma attack that’s gone out of control.

That’s according to a new study from Rice University. The lead researcher spotted another trend from 10 years’ worth of data.

“One difference that comes out is a higher percentage of those schools do not have a nurse,” said Loren Raun, an assistant research professor at Rice and the chief environmental science officer for the city of Houston.

Not all elementary schools in HISD have a full-time nurse. IN 2013, nursing students from Prairie View A&M University College of Nursing taught pre-K students about nutrition and digestion at Whidby Elementary School.
Not all elementary schools in HISD have a full-time nurse. IN 2013, nursing students from Prairie View A&M University College of Nursing taught pre-K students about nutrition and digestion at Whidby Elementary School.

Raun said that those ambulances go to certain school zones more than others: more areas on the east side of town, more elementary schools and more places with poverty. Black children made up the largest percentage of ambulance-treated asthma cases, followed by Hispanic students.

Raud added that using ambulances to treat asthma adds up to millions of dollars, with each trip to the hospital costing about $10,000.

“And that doesn’t include the cost for a lost day of work for the caregiver who has to be home to take care of the child. And it doesn’t take into account lost school days and so that’s an underestimated cost,” she said.

Those lost school days cost students with asthma, who can fall behind in school.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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