Vital Signs Volume 9, Issue 2 - Page 7

BREATHING EASY: Healthy Hoops Kentucky Helps Children & Families Understand Asthma W hen life gives lemons to the youngest of us, making lemonade may be the furthest thing from our minds. For children with asthma, the idea of doing something as simple as playing basketball may seem painfully out of reach. With the help of local physicians and volunteers, Healthy Hoops Kentucky has opened up a world of possibilities to children between the ages of 7 and 13 suffering from asthma. This year’s Healthy Hoops Kentucky Tip-Off Event, held at Moore Traditional High School for the seventh consecutive year, promises a full day of health awareness, entertainment, asthma screenings, basketball drills led by U of L legend Darrell Griffith and more. “Just because your child has asthma doesn’t mean they can’t participate in a sport,” said Marcelline Coots, Healthy Hoops Kentucky Program Manager and Community Engagement Manager at Passport Health Plan. Coots has been a part of Healthy Hoops Kentucky since its inception seven years ago. “Many times we hear children say, ‘I have asthma so I can’t play basketball or tennis. I have to sit on the sideline.’ And it shouldn’t have to be. As long as the asthma is well controlled, the child should be able to participate in any sport,” she said. Asthma can be scary. Watching someone you love gasp for air is something not easily forgotten. And, the affliction is eerily common. Asthma is the most common childhood chronic disease and the third leading cause of child hospitalization. While a child’s lungs will develop with age, they don’t necessarily outgrow asthma. VITAL SIGNS Volume 9 • Issue 2 In the face of these concerns, Healthy Hoops Kentucky is designed to bring a communal atmosphere to learning. Asthmatic children, their siblings, and their parents/guardians can come together, learn and play without being subjugated to undue peer pressure or put downs. “This has really become a family event. The parents come. The siblings come. The grandparents come. We try to make it fun for the whole family,” said Coots. The annual event allows parents, too, to breathe a little easier, armed with the knowledge that they and their children can overcome this hurdle. As the event begins, participants register for mandatory health screenings, discuss medication and create a personalized action plan. Workshops for parents provide tips and prevention facts. Doctors and nurses are on hand to answer any and all questions related to the health of the children present. Children and parents both answer a quality of life questionnaire to see how they’re managing the asthma and children can be diagnosed and even prescribed medicine on-site. “It’s a huge community collaboration,” said Michael Rabkin, Director of Communications at Passport Health Plan. “We get the healthy portions out of the way first, because once you hand a child a basketball, you can’t ask them to sit down.” The Healthy Hoops Kentucky Coalition, made up of private organizations, the public sector, community groups, and health care experts from around Louisville, is enthusiastic to reach more community members. “I love the fact that we’re not just telling children to go out, exercise and figure it out on their own,” Rabkin said. “We’re taking a subset of kids who have asthma and showing them they don’t have to sit on the sidelines. You can come out and play.” Joining the doctors and volunteers is basketball legend and Honorary Chair of Healthy Hoops Kentucky Darrell Griffith. Griffith, who led U of L to its first NCAA basketball championship in 1980 and later played 11 years in the NBA for the Utah Jazz, has been a part of Healthy Hoops Kentucky from the start. With his Louisville connections, Griffith is able to bring in other athletes and volunteers who otherwise might not be aware of the program. “I’m honored and proud to have been involved in the Healthy Hoops Kentucky event for so many years,” said Griffith. “The work that we do to help these young people manage their asthma and learn how they can stay physically active has changed their lives.” Sponsors for Healthy Hoops Kentucky include the University of Louisville, Kroger, AstraZenica and more. Initially developed by AmeriHealth Caritas and continued by Passport Health Plan, Healthy Hoops Kentucky is organized by a wide-ranging coalition of sponsors and organizations throughout the state. Over 120 children were given asthma screenings at the 2013 Healthy Hoops Kentucky Tip-Off event, and the program is expecting even more this year. The program is free with lunch included. For more information on how to register or volunteer, visit or call (502) 5858429. 7