Highmark Blue Shield will provide a grant of $10,000 to the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania (ALA-PA) to support children with asthma.

The grant will fund asthma kits to newly-diagnosed children of asthma and provide asthma education outreach to the citizens of south central Pennsylvania.

"We are grateful to Highmark Blue Shield for their contribution to our mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease," said Deb Brown, president & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. "Asthma is a serious, life-threatening disease. Children and families new to this disease can breathe a little bit easier with the availability of this critical asthma resource."

Highmark Blue Shield's grant to the ALA-PA will help supply asthma kits to 750 caregivers of children with asthma in the counties of Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and Schuylkill.

The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania will also host Asthma Awareness Day in the spring of 2013, an asthma education outreach event that will reach more children and families in Pennsylvania.

Highmark Blue Shield joins Genentech Inc, The Hershey Company and The Stabler Foundation in providing funding to the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania for this program.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in children and one of the leading reasons children are brought to the emergency room, admitted to the hospital or absent from school due to illness.

In south central Pennsylvania, the number of students with asthma for the 2008-2009 school year totaled 16,446 according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Division of School Health in the Bureau of Community Health Systems.

Nationally, over 7 million children suffer from asthma.

"With the increasing number of children diagnosed with asthma each year, our goal is to help educate those children about the disease and how to manage their asthma," said Susan Hubley, director of community affairs for Highmark Blue Shield. "In addition, the child's entire support system should be aware and prepared; between parents, teachers, school nurses, the family baby sitter and others that care for the child, understanding the use of the kit's tools will ensure that more children will experience less asthma attacks."

The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania will manage distribution of the asthma kits as well as evaluate the effectiveness of the program through data collected by each asthma kit recipient at 6-month and 12-month intervals.

All kits will contain an asthma spacer, peak flow meter, educational DVD, brochures and an asthma action plan to be completed with the patient's physician.

"Learning how to manage your child's asthma can be a frightening experience," says Tracy Ingram, regional director of the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania. "When my son was diagnosed, I felt overwhelmed, but through education and the support of our health care professionals, I was able to help my son deal with the challenges of the disease."

"It is our hope to reach and educate as many caregivers of children with asthma as we can," said Brown. "Every family must know and be prepared to handle the unique, critical needs of a child with asthma."

For more information about asthma and asthma programs and resources provided by the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania, visit www.lunginfo.org.