Randomized controlled trial of a teacher-led asthma education program

Richard L Henry, Peter G Gibson, Graham V Vimpani, J Lynn Francis, Juliana Hazell
Pediatric Pulmonology 2004, 38 (6): 434-42
Our objective was to determine whether an asthma education program in schools would have 1) a direct impact on student knowledge and attitudes to asthma and quality of life of the students with asthma, 2) an indirect impact on teacher knowledge and attitudes to asthma and on school policies about asthma, and 3) a sustainable program after the resources to implement the research were withdrawn. Seventeen intervention and 15 control schools participated in a controlled trial. Baseline knowledge and attitudes were measured in year 8 students (ages 13-14 years) and their teachers together with quality of life in the students with asthma. A three-lesson package about asthma was delivered by teachers as part of the Personal Development/Health/Physical Education (PD/H/PE) curriculum. Follow-up questionnaires were administered to students and staff. Efforts to change school policies were documented. Five years after the intervention, PD/H/PE teachers were contacted to determine whether the program was still operating. Main outcome measures included asthma knowledge, attitudes, and quality of life. Questionnaires were returned by 4,161/4,475 of the year 8 students at baseline and by 3,443 at follow-up. In intervention schools, compared with control schools, students showed improved asthma knowledge (P < 0.0001), improvement in tolerance to asthma (P = 0.02), internal control (P = 0.03), and less tendency to believe in the role of chance in asthma control (P = 0.04). Students from intervention but not control schools showed significant improvements in overall quality of life (P = 0.003 vs. P = 0.82, respectively). Teachers from intervention schools showed significant increases in knowledge compared to control schools (P < 0.0001). Intervention schools were more likely to seek further health education about asthma (P < 0.01). Five years after the 35 schools involved in the development of the materials or the trial had been offered the Living With Asthma package, 25 (71%) were still teaching the program to most or all of their students. Fifty-nine of the 61 (97%) high schools in the Hunter Region now have the program. Management and distribution of the Living With Asthma program have been taken over by the Asthma Foundation of New South Wales. The package has been updated and is being offered to all high schools throughout New South Wales as part of the National Asthma-Friendly Schools Project. In conclusion, a teacher-led asthma education program in secondary school had direct and indirect beneficial outcomes and was sustained at a high level for 5 years in most schools in the Hunter Region, despite minimal ongoing maintenance and support from health workers.

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