Fact: Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children, or approximately 2 students per CPS classroom.
Fact: Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can result in death.
Fact: 25% of first-time anaphylactic reactions will happen while a child is at school.
These staggering statistics are what led CPS to create a policy that stocks all schools with EpiPens and gives nurses the freedom to use them in emergency situations.
Implemented in SY 12-13, the EpiPen program has received national attention of late, including an upcoming article in The Journal of School Health.
"We appreciate this support from the public health community," said Blair Harvey-Gintoft, a student health specialist with CPS. "It's unusual for a school policy to be published in a health journal, so it speaks to the leadership CPS has shown in driving public health policy."
The article comes on the heels of a prestigious award from the Alliance for Research in Chicago Communities (ARCC), which recognized the District's efforts to improve health outcomes for students with chronic diseases. Called the Community Engaged Research Partnership Award, the honor praised the District's focus on asthma and food allergies and highlighted the longstanding collaboration between CPS and Northwestern University.
"Northwestern provides us with the expertise and resources we need to implement our programs," said Harvey-Gintoft. "They are fully committed to this work, and have helped us collect the data we need to accurately measure student outcomes."
CPS has offered its support as well, connecting the Northwestern team with the students, families and communities who can participate in their research and benefit from their findings.
"We all have the same goal, so it makes sense to leverage each other's resources," said Harvey-Gintoft. "It's the most effective way of getting what we all want, which is improved health and learning for our children."
Northwestern was a huge support in creating the EpiPen policy, lending expert advice and resources to the project. In its first year, EpiPens were used to treat nearly 40 cases of first-time anaphylaxis, no doubt preventing serious health complications for those students. CPS is the first large school district in the country to implement a program of this kind, and hopes to build on it in the coming years.
"We're always looking to improve best practices and evaluate how we can do things better," said Harvey-Gintoft. "Our goals include expanding parent education on chronic diseases and growing our relationships with Northwestern and other partners so that we can fully evaluate this and other health policies."