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Creativity in Community Health

How does a used plastic bottle save a life and the planet? Ask a Villanova University nursing student. When senior nursing students travel to the Dominican Republic with faculty for an international pediatric nursing experience, they perform health screenings and care for underserved children in the bateyes (shantytowns) surrounding the sugar plantations. They also educate volunteer community health workers (CHWs) about critical health topics for the region, such as asthma.

Many young children have asthma, yet when they need to have a dose of airway-opening medication from their inhaler, they are not able to synchronize the drug administration with their breath and don’t receive its benefits. Combining environmental safety principles with nursing ingenuity, the students recycle clean plastic drinking bottles to create a spacer—a tube attached to the inhaler that briefly contains the puff of aerosolized medicine near the mouth until the child takes a breath and inhales it.

Students teach the CHWs to safely cut off the bottom of the bottle to create the tube, line the edges with duct tape for comfort and tape the inhaler to the open neck of the bottle. The open bottom is placed over the child’s mouth area to create a seal, the medicine is dosed into the tube, and when the child takes a breath, he inhales the life-saving drug. Additionally, there are fewer plastic bottles littering the area, or being burned or buried and contaminating the environment.