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CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System awarded about $45,000 in grants to 22 area schools at a luncheon Friday at the hospital.

The schools were eligible for the grants because they participated in St. Michael's Mobile Pediatric Asthma Program. Asthma is a chronic condition that causes a person's airways to narrow, swell and produce excess mucus which can make breathing difficult and result in wheezing, coughing and being short of breath.

The Mobile Pediatric Asthma Program that St. Michael provides in conjunction with Genesis PrimeCare offers asthma screening, evaluation and treatment at no charge to participants.

"If asthma is not controlled, children could have repeated absences, hospital stays and it limits their ability to participate in sports," said Barbara Brown, a registered nurse who works on the Spirit of St. Michael bus where the screening takes place. "We go to lots of area schools and provide free pediatric asthma screening. Paperwork goes out to the parents, and if they agree to participate, the school nurse schedules the child an appointment. The parent comes to the campus and brings the child to us. They don't ever have to leave campus."

Children undergo a pulmonary function test that shows how well the lungs are working.

"We have an environmental nurse practitioner and if medications need to be ordered or changed, it's done by her," Brown said.

More than 10 million school days are missed each year because of asthma, according to a news release from St. Michael. This program is making a difference locally.

"We have a lot of parents who bring their kids back the following year and there is a huge change and improvement," Brown said.

St. Michael officials expressed pride in the program.

"We can impact the health of communities in this region through the Mobile Pediatric Asthma Program by increasing the number of children diagnosed with asthma and helping to equip them and their families with the tools and knowledge to successfully manage the disease and other related respiratory illnesses," Jason Rounds, St. Michael president, said in a news release.

Area schools receiving grants include Bloomburg, Clarksville, Malta, McLeod, Mount Vernon, Simms, Hooks, Maud, Linden-Kildare, Texarkana, Redwater, Red Lick, Queen City, Avery, Atlanta, Liberty-Eylau, Hughes Springs, New Boston, Daingerfield, Pleasant Grove, DeKalb and Jefferson.

For more information regarding the program or to make an appointment for a free screening call 903-748-8573.

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