Smoke as a Trigger

I'll be honest. When I first started my term as a Health Educator at the Respiratory Health Association I was a bit confused by my supervisor’s emphasis on outreach to high schools. Because of the students’ ages I assumed that they would be aware of how to manage their asthma, and thus, wouldn’t need our asthma management workshop.

I continued service blindly believing this until a group of high school students in the Austin community provided one of the most insightful lessons I've received this year. As I presented the list of asthma triggers, the students looked at me in awe. They asked questions about how to avoid the triggers and the effects of long term exposure to asthma triggers. A lot of the students didn't realize that smoke was a trigger and were already smoking themselves. They were genuinely interested in receiving information that could help with their personal asthma management as well as that of their loved ones. A colleague scheduled this program for me to deliver. I can’t help but think that I may have overlooked this school had she not.

That day I learned how my biases and preconceived notions of what people “should know” can create barriers to essential health information and resources. Furthermore, the students taught  me that I need to remove myself, my assumptions, and my experiences from communities I did not grow up in. Lastly, I realized that a brief conversation with my supervisor regarding outreach strategies could have cleared this all up.

As my term of service comes to a close, I will continue to reflect on the experiences I have had over the last 10 months. Each and every community that I have served has played a huge role in my professional development. I want to thank the students, parents, and school staff I have had the pleasure of learning from this year. The experiences you have blessed me with are invaluable and will continue to guide me on my path to medicine.


This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Emonii Robinson.

Emonii is a Health Educator at Respiratory Health Association