Taking the Road Against Asthma
Every other day, the "Asthma Bus" rolls up to a public middle school in Philadelphia.
Its job? To help curb asthma among fifth and sixth graders, an age group especially vulnerable to one of the nation's most dramatically rising illnesses.
Federal health statistics show the number of Americans reporting asthma has nearly tripled since 1980 with nearly one-third of them under age 14.
The Asthma Bus came about from a unique blend of resources, including Salvatore Mangione, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, and staff of the Hospital's graphics department.
Its concept as a mobile teaching center developed from the Philadelphia Asthma Task Force under Dr. Mangione's guidance, with $300,000 in funding by the British pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome.
Calling asthma "the number-one health problem in schools," Dr. Mangione, a pulmonologist and asthma researcher, oversaw the design of the classroom on wheels after spotting the red double-decker British bus for sale outside London.
The job of designing the Asthma Bus to attract the very children it's meant to help fell to the talents of Janet Hoefling, Director, Marketing and University Graphics Department (M/UG), and Joseph DiDomenico, Graphic Designer.
In addition to completely designing the vehicle's exterior and two-level interior, Mr. DiDomenico created the logo and four personable "Asthma BUSters" cartoon characters that decorate the bus and form the core of visual teaching tools Mr. DiDomenico developed for the asthma education program taught by Sarah LaPorte, Asthma Educator.
Dr. Mangione and his team have found that nearly one-quarter of the 3,300 fifth- and sixth-graders in Philadelphia surveyed reported having asthma. In addition, almost one-third of all children had asthma symptoms, and only half of these were aware they had the disease.
At least 300 of the 1,500 students at Roberto Clemente Middle School are known to have asthma, making it the leading cause of absenteeism, says Patricia Mazzuca, Principal.
The Asthma Bus made its school year debut at the Clemente School, where John Chaney, the Temple University basketball coach who successfully overcame asthma, was featured guest.
Employees may have spotted the Asthma Bus on Scott Plaza when it visited the University campus in October.