Health Department



The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) received grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Nation Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities. DHSS seeks to partner with local public health agencies (LPHAs) from across Missouri to implement strategies that advance health equity and address social determinants of health as they relate to COVID-19 health disparities among populations at higher risk and that are underserved.

According to the 2010-2019 U.S. Census, 20.4% of Independence, Missouri’s population is non-white, 15.1% is living in poverty, 11.3% are under the age of 65 with a disability, and 12.4% do not have computer access. The purpose of the project is to address healthful food disparities, reduce health disparities, and decrease cases of COVID-19 in Independence residents.

Populations being served will include racial and ethnic minority groups residing in Independence as well as those with a disability, living in poverty, and/or without computer access.

These activities align with the Statewide Health Disparities Initiative’s goals of reducing COVID-19 related disparities and control of infection/transmission. Providing both high-risk and underserved populations in Independence as well as families that have at least one COVID-19 positive member with a subscription for grocery delivery service would reduce their risk of outside exposures and contracting COVID-19. It also allows families to effectively quarantine or isolate as needed. Providing computers and internet access for areas of town/community centers in Independence that meet criteria for being high-risk and underserved, increases the accessibility of healthful foods and the ability for these populations to access telehealth services. Both would lead to improve health outcomes in the targeted populations.

 For more information on the program or to see if you qualify for a grocery delivery subscription, you can email or call 816-325-7186.  The application can be found here: Health Disparities Registration Form (English) and Health Disparities Registration Form (Iniciativa de Disparidades de Salud - Espanol)

The Independence Health Department takes an active role in working with children with asthma. Children in the Independence School District are presented the American Lung Association's Open Airways program. This program helps the students understand their asthma and learn to take charge of their asthma. Classes are also presented to adults, bus drivers, childcare workers, teachers, after-school workers and caretakers.

The American Lung Association’s Open Airways For Schools is a school-based curriculum that educates and empowers children through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management. It teaches children with asthma ages 8-11 how to detect the warning signs of asthma, avoid their triggers and make decisions about their health. Children who complete the Open Airways for Schools program should be able to:

  • Take steps to prevent asthma symptoms
  • Recognize the symptoms of asthma when they first occur, and carry out appropriate management steps
  • Discuss and solve problems related to asthma with parents, medical professionals, teachers, and friends
  • Feel more confident about taking care of their asthma on a daily basis

Watch this video from an Open Airways For Schools facilitator on why the program is so important to young asthma sufferers.

The Story Behind Open Airways For Schools

Open Airways For Schools was developed over a decade ago by researchers at Columbia University, in collaboration with the American Lung Association. The decision was made to design the program for delivery in schools because that is the surest way to reach all children, regardless of their family situation or access to health care. Children who completed the program took more steps to manage their asthma, improved their school performance, and had fewer and less severe asthma episodes. Parents of children participating in Open Airways For Schools reported taking more steps to help manage their children’s asthma. And the school environment became more supportive: children without asthma were more willing to help children with asthma, and children with asthma were able to give support to one another.

How the Program Works

The Open Airways For Schools curriculum consists of six 40-minute group lessons for children with asthma held during the school day. The curriculum incorporates an interactive teaching approach – using group discussion, stories, games and role play – to promote students’ active involvement in the learning process. Topics covered include basic information about asthma, recognizing and managing asthma symptoms, using medication, avoiding asthma triggers, getting enough exercise, and doing well at school.

Open Airways For Schools classes are led by trained instructors, who might be the school nurse or other school personnel, parents, community volunteers, or anyone with an asthma background that has an interest in working with children.

The Open Airways For Schools classroom kits contain easy-to-use teaching materials including a detailed curriculum guide, posters and activity handouts. Each lesson also includes materials for the children to take home and share with their parents. All curriculum materials are available in English and Spanish.

More Information

Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 years; of which 4.1 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2011. Asthma is a reversible obstructive lung disease, caused by increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli. It is a chronic inflammatory condition with acute exacerbations.Determining whether a child has asthma can be difficult.

  • An asthma episode is a series of events that results in narrowed airways. These include: swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. The narrowed airway is responsible for the difficulty in breathing with the familiar “wheeze”.
  • Secondhand smoke can cause serious harm to children. An estimated 400,000 to one million children with asthma have their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15. Approximately 29 percent of all asthma hospital discharges in 2010 were in those under 15, however only 20% of the U.S. population was less than 15 years old.
  • Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism;in 2008, asthma accounted for an estimated 14.4 million lost school days in children with an asthma attack in the previous year.

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Will my child outgrow his/her asthma?

Many babies who wheeze with viral respiratory illnesses will stop wheezing as they grow older. If your child has atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergies or if there is smoking in the home or a strong family history of allergies or asthma, there is a greater chance that asthma symptoms will persist.

Can asthma be cured?

Not yet. However, for most children and adults, asthma can be controlled throughout life with appropriate diagnosis, education and treatment.

Should my child exercise?

Once a child's asthma is controlled, (usually with the help of proper medications) exercise should become part of his or her daily activities. Children with asthma certainly can and do excel in athletics. Many Olympic athletes have asthma.

How can symptoms be controlled at school?

You, your family, physician and school personnel can work together to prevent and/or control asthma. Share your child's asthma management plan with the school nurse and any coaches who oversee your child. With the approval of physicians and parents, school-age children with asthma should be allowed to carry metered-dose inhalers with them and use them as appropriate.

The most important part of managing asthma is for you and your child to be very knowledgeable about how and when asthma causes problems and how to use medications.

Asthma Resources for Children

Millions of teenagers around the world have asthma – you’re not alone. You know best how you feel about having asthma. These tips may help you be in control of your asthma and can make managing asthma as a teen a bit easier:

  • With your doctor or asthma educator, make an Asthma Action Plan that fits your life.
  • Ask to be actively included in all discussions and treatment choices because you’re the one who has to take the medicine regularly.
  • Ask your doctor if your rescue medicine can be taken at home in the morning and evening. This can make taking asthma medicine part of a morning or night time routine, just like brushing teeth or showering.
  • Always take your controller medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Not taking long-term control medicines when needed can be dangerous and even fatal.
  • Live as normal a life as possible with the help of medicines and thoughtful limitations. You can still play sports or go to dances and partake in most normal activities. Following your asthma action plan will let you do just about anything.
  • Keep your quick-relief inhaler with you, and use it when you need it.
  • Watch for early warning signs of an asthma attack, and get help if you need it.
  • It is okay to ask for help if symptoms do not improve despite following the action plan and taking the medication as prescribed.
  • Schedule doctor visits. Don’t forget routine visits to the doctor for monitoring.
  • Know your asthma warning signs and do your best to avoid things that trigger your asthma.

Asthma Resources for Teens

Did you know suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24 in the United States? Millions of people - both adults and youth - are affected by mental illness each year. Mental health is our social, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. It affects how we relate to others and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life from childhood to adulthood.

Who is affected by mental health issues?

50% of mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. All children regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, race, and residence within the United States can experience a mental health disorder. These disorders can be managed and treated. The most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in children are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, behavior problems, and depression.

The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years. The sooner a child receives appropriate professional health for a mental health disorder, the better the outcome. Left untreated, mental health disorders can affect how a child functions at home, in school, and in their community. Symptoms depend on the disorder and usually begin in childhood. A diagnosis is often made during school years, but some youth may not show any outward symptoms, thus remaining untreated.

What can you do to help?

Knowledge is power. If you notice a child is struggling with a mental health disorder, it is important you talk with them, get appropriate professional help, and learn more about mental health disorders. If a youth is in crisis and is threatening or has made plans to harm and/or kill themselves, call 9-1-1. Those in need of mental health assistance are now able to call or text 9-8-8 24/7 to be connected to trained mental health professionals.

To combat suicide in Independence, many local efforts are taking place. The Independence Suicide and Mental Health Task Force was formed in 2021 with a mission to lower the rate of teen suicide and improve the mental health of Independence youth. Here, local stakeholders meet quarterly and discuss efforts being performed to reach this goal. Current members include Independence Health Department, Children’s Mercy, Comprehensive Mental Health, the Independence School District, local religious leaders, etc. For more information, contact the Independence Health Department (IHD) at 816-325-7606.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a skills-based training course. It teaches participants how to recognize and respond to signs of mental health challenges and substance use issues in adults and children. Teachers, coaches, employers, parents, and hospital and school staff should know MHFA. There are 3 MHFA programs: Adult, youth, and teen. For more information on MHFA, contact IHD at 816-325-7606.

Links for more information:

To learn more about common children’s mental health disorders:

To learn the most common symptoms of a mental health disorder in youth:

What can be done to prevent bullying and raise awareness?

Did you know 50% of tweens (9-12 years old) say they are bullied at school and 14.5% say they are bullied online? 1 out of every 5 students is bullied in the United States. 5 out of 5 can help prevent it.

Bullying is when a person tries to gain power and control through verbally and/or physically harming other targeted persons repeatedly. Bullied students are at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and dropping out of school. Bullies and those being bullied have a higher risk for both mental health and behavioral problems.

In October of each year, many people show their support on Unity Day.  On this day, plan to wear and share the color orange on social media. This act will support the mission of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center by showing unity for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. No child should ever experience bullying.

There are many ways to approach bullying. If your child is being bullied be supportive, listen without judgment, and identify who to contact for help. If your child is bullying others know that bullying is a behavior and behavior can change, help them understand why they bully, and how they can handle situations more positively. If your child witnesses bullying encourage them to tell an adult, to offer support to the bullied student, and reinforce the fact bullying is not okay.

Links for more information:

To learn more about bullying, click here:

To learn more about the effects of bullying, click here:

To learn more about Unity Day and what you can do to help spread awareness about bullying, click here:

To learn more about bullying prevention, click here:

You probably think about your child's asthma every day. When you care for a child with asthma, it's important to know what his or her asthma triggers are and to work with your child's health care provider to create an Asthma Action Plan so you will know what to do if your child's asthma symptoms worsen. It's also important to make sure that you know about your child's medication and how to use the devices prescribed or recommended by your child's provider. Be sure to stay informed, and work closely with your child's health care provider to help control your child's asthma symptoms and work toward his or her asthma management goals.

Five important things you can do to help your child manage his or her asthma

  • If your child is 4-11 years old, have them take the Childhood Asthma Control Test* periodically to help determine whether your child’s asthma symptoms are well controlled, and share the results with your child’s health care provider. If your child is 12 years or older, have them take the Asthma Control Test™.
  • Know what your child's asthma triggers are and how to minimize exposure to them.
  • Make sure your child is using the right medication at the right time. Know which medicines are for long-term control and which are for quick relief of sudden symptoms.
  • Work with your child’s health care provider to create an Asthma Action Plan that explains what steps to take if asthma symptoms worsen. Share it with your child's school and other caregivers.
  • Make sure that other caregivers — sitters, teachers, school nurses, camp counselors, coaches, and so on — understand your child's condition, what his or her triggers are, which medications he or she needs and when, and how the medications should be given.

If your child is old enough to take part in his or her care, it's important to help your child understand:

  • His or her asthma triggers and how to minimize exposure to them.
  • How to take prescribed asthma medicines and the differences between them.
  • His or her Asthma Action Plan and steps to take if asthma symptoms worsen.

Watch the videos in the following link to learn how to properly use an inhaler to get the most out of your child's medicine:

Asthma Resources for Parents