Ga. recognized for policies to help students with allergies

Georgia received an honorable mention for its school-based policies that help students who suffer from allergies and asthma, according to a new report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The purpose of the annual report is to identify comprehensive policies made at the state level and to provide a guide for health advocates and lawmakers nationwide to use to improve those policies.

Charlotte Collins, the foundation’s director of public policy, said Georgia has “moved forward” in the areas of outdoor air quality and medication and treatment policies. The state was recognized for steps taken in earlier this year to eliminate unnecessary school bus idling and for legislation that allows students to possess and self-administer epinephrine while in school, at a school-sponsored activity or on school property.

Such policies can make a difference. Collins said the asthma and allergies are growing among school-age children and youth. It’s estimated that more than 5 million children have active asthma and 2.2 million school-aged kids report food allergies.

“It’s not like you leave your allergies at home,” said Dr. David Tanner, an allergist with the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. “They’re with you all the time. The better the school is enabled to handle these problems, the safer the kid will be at school.”

Although the state was cited for several improvements, it didn’t get the highest grade. “Honor roll” states are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — the same as last year.

“One reason there is no change in the list of the top six is that when you measure states based on the public policies they enact, it’s a slow process,” said Mike Tringale, a spokesman for the foundation. “To see great shifts and change from year to year would be unlikely.”