Asthma and attendance in urban schools

Sara B. Johnson, Paul Spin, Faith Connolly, Marc Stein, Tina L. Cheng, Katherine Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction Asthma is linked to student absenteeism, a risk factor for poor achievement and school dropout. Studies of asthma and absenteeism have common limitations, including relying on parent-reported asthma, which may be unreliable and prone to selection, and inadequately accounting for confounding health and social risks. Therefore, the rate of absenteeism attributable to asthma and the extent to which better asthma control would translate into better attendance remain unclear. Methods Participants were 1,194 students in 2 large urban US schools (1 elementary, 1 middle) in 2016-2018. Student asthma was assessed based on parent report on health forms, student-reported asthma-related emergency department/hospitalization or medication use, and school health center record of asthma. Multiple imputation was used to reduce selection from missing asthma reports. The relationship between asthma and school district-reported days absent was estimated using Poisson random intercept regression, accounting for health and demographic covariates. Results Parent-reported ever asthma (27%) was not associated with absenteeism in adjusted models. Student-reported asthma health care or medication use (16%) and school health center record of asthma (17%) were associated with higher absenteeism (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.16; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.35 and IRR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.09-1.34, respectively). Student-reported asthma and school health center record of asthma were associated with 1.9 and 1.5 absences per year, respectively. Conclusion Student-reported and school health center record of asthma explained 14% to 18% of student absenteeism, even after accounting for other health and social risks. When possible, student reports should supplement parent reports to ensure that students with asthma are identified and obtain access to care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE148
JournalPreventing Chronic Disease
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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