The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has launched a programme to improve the self-management of asthma by school children in the Capital. My Asthma in School was developed by CLAHRC researchers based at the Blizard Institute within Queen Mary University of London.
The programme uses educational workshops and theatre performance to improve asthma control and peer support for asthma in London secondary school.
Asthma affects approximately one in 11 children and young people in the UK; and young people with asthma have higher rates of school absences and visits to their doctor or the hospital. According to the data collected for the study, nearly half of young people (aged 11-18 years) with asthma did not have control over their condition.
Dr Gioia Mosler, Outreach and Learning Manager for the ‘My asthma in school project’, said:
“The number of deaths from asthma in the UK rank among the highest in the EU. Many of these deaths could be prevented with better self-management.”
She added: “Improving the ability and motivation to self-manage asthma gives many young asthma sufferers the opportunity to improve their asthma control. As a result they would suffer less from common symptoms like coughing at night or breathlessness.”
My asthma in School is one of the first school-based interventions for asthma self-management in the UK. Similar trials have been undertaken outside the UK, however, given that the health and education systems differ, results from these interventions may not be transferable to a UK setting.
The programme has been approved and supported by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. Mayor Khan was himself diagnosed with the conditon as an adult – which he attributes to London’s poor air quality and pollution levels.
He said: “The Greater London Authority and I believe that the ‘My Asthma in School’ programme is likely to promote the necessary education young people require to effectively self-manage their asthma.”
He added: “I encourage all London secondary schools to take part in this programme.”
Using behavioural change theories as a framework, researchers have developed a variety of engaging and entertaining media, such as apps, videos, and interactive games.
The intervention includes an interactive theatre performance (below), lasting approximately two hours, to help raise awareness of asthma among peers. The performance has been developed with partners at Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre.
Dr Mosler added: “The theatre intervention addresses asthma from a new angle, focusing on peer awareness and support around young people with asthma. The questionnaire data we collected during phase one showed many barriers related to a perceived stigma around asthma. The theatre intervention addresses stigma around asthma in the peer group.”
The intervention will be trialled in London during the next few months. Given a positive result of this intervention it could be adopted as a wider programme to improve asthma in young people.
The programme is run as part of the My Health in School initiative which aims to improve life and health of young people at school. The team works with Professor Jonathan Grigg, who leads several studies about asthma and lung health in children and young people.