"MODESTO, Calif. – The students filing into Bret Harte Elementary School every morning barely notice the flags fluttering by the school's main entrance. There is the American flag, the California state flag and the color-coded asthma flag – green when the air is clear, red when it is a respiratory nightmare, as it so often is here."
"'Asthma pretty much rules our medicine cabinet,' said school nurse Diana Connacher, revealing a stockpile of inhalers belonging to the school's youngest students, at least one or two per classroom. 'We have a lot of 'frequent fliers' around here.'
School nurses like Connacher are on the front lines of a public health war to combat childhood asthma. Although asthma rates nationally for adults and children are on the rise, youngsters in the Central Valley face a particular set of challenges, experts say, growing up in a place that is "a cooking pot for asthma," in the words of Dr. Esteban Burchard, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco who studies asthma in underserved communities."