News and Speeches

Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the Mayor’s Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt Announce the NYC Asthma Friendly Schools Campaign to Help Reduce Asthma-Related Absenteeism


  New York Sports Club Joins Campaign to Promote Student Health and Wellness

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott with the Mayor’s Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt today announced a citywide campaign to reduce asthma-related absenteeism by helping schools and families manage asthma among students at school and at home. Roughly 17 percent of students are afflicted with asthma with the highest concentrations in our neediest neighborhoods. The campaign was developed in partnership with the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement, the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

“We need to do everything we can to make sure students attend school and do well in class, so that by their senior year, they will be prepared for college or a career,” Chancellor Walcott said. “We know there are students who do not attend school because they have asthma and do not know how to manage it away from home. This campaign, which will include training physical education teachers and parents in managing asthma, will provide critical guidance so our students can be in school on a more regular basis.”

“While attendance rates have increased over the years citywide, large pockets of children are missing far too much school. Last year, one out of every five New York City student missed a month or more of school – or approximately 250,000 students,” said John Feinblatt the Mayor’s Chief Advisor for Policy and Strategic Planning. “Both chronic absenteeism and asthma hit our high need communities the hardest – and both can impede school success.  The Task Force’s latest initiative will help provide strategic support to provide all students, regardless of asthma-related challenges, with the opportunity to succeed in school.” 

“Asthma is a common disease among New York City's children and is a leading cause of missed school,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “It is also the most common cause of hospitalization for children 14 years and younger. Although we do not yet know how to prevent asthma, it can be managed so that people who suffer from the condition can lead normal, active lives. In keeping with this goal, the Health Department is proud to be a part of this campaign to reduce absenteeism due to asthma and help City schoolchildren succeed in school.”

“The NYC Asthma Friendly Schools Campaign is an interagency effort to reduce asthma-related absences at our schools by heightening asthma prevention and management efforts citywide through a new 311 application, volunteerism and parent outreach,” said Leslie Cornfeld, chair of the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement. “Our goal is to use multi-sector expertise and resources to develop and strengthen strategies for schools with high rates of asthma so that absenteeism does not prevent these students from reaching their full potential to succeed at school.”

The citywide campaign includes:

  • Creation of a School Asthma Ambassador Corps:  DOE/DOHMH-trained school staff members or community partners will promote asthma awareness and outreach at schools with high-rates of asthma, by helping to connect students with asthma with support services and by helping families fill out the necessary asthma consent form to provide emergency care at school for their children.
  • New 311 Student Asthma Assistance: 311 will provide students and parents with information on asthma management in schools, and will provide the location of the closest health clinic for non-emergency medical assistance.
  • Expansion of the American Lung Association's (ALA) Open Airways Program For Schools: We will strengthen the partnership between school leadership and school health teams to improve asthma management of students. The ALA’s program is widely recognized asthma management program for children in the nation. It helps to educate elementary school students, ages 8-11, through an interactive approach to help them manage asthma, decrease asthma emergencies, and raise asthma awareness among families and school personnel.
  • Parent Summits at Schools with High Asthma Rates: Participating schools will hold parent summits, targeting families of students with asthma. DOHMH and DOE, supported by local community partners, will provide training about asthma prevention and management – and the importance of regular attendance to help reduce chronic absenteeism.
  • DOE Physical Education Teachers to Receive Training in Management and Prevention of Asthma among Students: Starting today (June 9), the Office of School Health will conduct professional development on managing asthma for 35 elementary-school physical education teachers. The training is also designed to increase asthma awareness among PE teachers, improve communication between PE teachers and the medical teams, improve asthma management for students with asthma and help increase activity amongst students with asthma.
  • Family Shelters to Receive New Asthma Prevention and School Attendance Training: The DOE and the Mayor’s Task Force will launch additional initiatives designed to improve attendance and asthma management at shelters with families of school-age children.

Beginning this fall, the New York Sports Club will join the campaign by supporting morning fitness classes at schools that participating in the pilot program. Their trainers will make guest appearances at these schools throughout the year to promote health and wellness, and will organize monthly weekend fitness summits citywide to promote health and wellness throughout the school year.

“The New York Sports Clubs (NYSC) is delighted to be partnering with the Mayor and Chancellor to promote health and wellness to all NYC public school students,” said NYSC CEO Robert Giardina. “By bringing our expertise, resources and renowned New York Sports Clubs fitness trainers to the students of NYC, we are confident that we can help promote healthy habits for learning and living in our great City. We look forward to bringing our energy and skills to NYC schools over the next year.”

The campaign to reduce asthma-related absenteeism includes four schools this spring, PS 48 in the Bronx, PS 181 in Queens and PS 81 and PS 149, both in Brooklyn, and will expand to 20 schools in September. The campaign is part of a comprehensive citywide strategy, launched last spring, to reduce truancy and chronic absenteeism in New York City schools. Roughly 20 percent of students are chronically absent– meaning they missed over a month of school.

“This partnership with New York Sports Club is another great example of a responsible corporate citizen using its blank for good,” said Diahann Billings-Burford, chief service office of NYC Service. We’re thrilled that NYSC is working to keep our students active and interested in school, ensuring that they lead healthy lives and graduate on time.”

“Childhood asthma contributes to chronic absenteeism and school failure in New York City and nationwide,” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of the Children's Aid Society. “I applaud the Mayor's Task Force and our new schools Chancellor for including asthma prevention and management in its strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism.  It is critical that cities and educators focus on asthma management as an ingredient for school success and invest in proven strategies and programs. The Children's Aid Society is proud to have participated in developing the initiatives in New York City's Asthma Friendly Schools Campaign. This should be a model for other school districts throughout the nation.”