How to Improve Teaching About Asthma: The US School Experience

How to Improve Teaching About Asthma: The US School ExperienceThe severity of asthma is often underestimated by patients and caregivers. Educating asthmatics directly would plausibly raise their expectations and encourage them to participate more meaningfully in their own care. In effect, physicians and other health providers would be educated indirectly via their patients’ improved understanding of asthma. The American Lung Association (ALA) has explored this approach to educating the educator in the pediatric field. Exploiting an existing community resource, the public school system, the ALA has developed an educational package to be administered by school nurses, respiratory therapists, or even selected lay volunteers.
In 1991, the ALA adopted a school-based education program developed by Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York Source generic claritin. The ALA and the Columbia researchers believed that by positioning the asthma program within the elementary school system, the greatest promise existed for reaching the most number of children on a regular basis—particularly, low-income, minority children whose asthma had gone undetected or undertreated. The program, entitled “Open Airways for Schools,” featured an interactive teaching approach that combined role-plays, stories, group discussion, and games.

In the program, children were brought together in small groups—in effect, forming peer support groups. When the program was first assessed in New York, children who participated in the program took more steps to manage their own asthma, suffered fewer attacks of asthma, expressed more confidence in their own ability to manage asthma, and exerted greater influence on their parents’ management decisions. Whether an indirect consequence of improved asthma control or a direct consequence of the program, children achieved better school grades following the program. Further, implementation of the program in the school tended to alter the school environment to one that was more supportive of children with asthma. Asthmatic children were more willing to help one another and nonasthmatic children were more empathetic and helpful toward children with asthma. Of interest, parents reported more appropriate asthma management decisions up to 1 year following their child’s participation in the program. Parents worked with their children at home on specially designed assignments. These “take-home” assignments were given to children to encourage them to rehearse new skills at home with their parents to increase family communication about asthma. In addition, written information about asthma was provided to parents to familiarize them with what children learned—thus, building family support for new asthma management skills.

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