Learning is a Two Way Street: Lessons from the Nicholson STEM Academy Health Fair

On April 19th, the SOAAR team was joined by 11 Francis W. Parker High School students in staffing education tables at a health fair hosted by Nicholson STEM Academy’s in Englewood, Chicago. Together, we provided approximately 50 attendees with asthma and food allergy-related educational materials and training demonstrations.

In addition, the Francis W. Parker students interviewed 10 parents of children attending the school to determine what the most pertinent health problems are that affect their community. Through these conversations, the students learned about existing community-based factors and resources that improve and worsen these health conditions. Some of the conditions that parents and students often reported were obesity, allergies and asthma, so we were glad to share our resources with them.

At our food allergy table, we distributed epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) trainers and taught attendees the 5 simple steps to administer epinephrine in the case of anaphylaxis. Parents and students took turns following the steps to administer the trainers into oranges, which helped demonstrate and practice the steps. This was a fun and engaging way to teach participants how to recognize the many signs of anaphylaxis and the importance of administering an EAI properly during a food allergy emergency! After chatting with our team about their experiences with food allergy, parents and students visited with staff at our next table, which focused on asthma education.

Team members at our asthma table shared resource material, such as color-coded asthma action plans, step-by-step instructions on inhaler and spacer technique, and how to avoid environmental allergy triggers inside and outside the home. We demonstrated proper inhaler technique to those who stopped by, distributed free collapsible spacers to parents and students who have asthma, and stressed the importance of always using a spacer with a metered dose inhaler (MDI) to ensure they’re getting the most out of their medication!

Participating in this health fair was a wonderful way for us to visit with community members and share comprehensive asthma and food allergy education. We will continue to educate communities and learn from these encounters so that allergies and asthma become more manageable. By keeping in mind the community-based factors and resources that may lead to significant differences in health outcomes, we can bridge these gaps and improve the health of families.

The health fair was an amazing learning experience for everybody involved, and we are grateful to Nicholson STEM Academy’s faculty and staff for inviting us to participate!