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Asthma Treatment Improves With Telephone Coaching

Asthma has long been hailed as one of the most problematic respiratory disorders, especially among children, and when it goes untreated it can be damaging and even deadly. For this reason many asthmatics carry inhalers, and some use machines to get the medicine into their bodies, and alleviate the constricting of airways which occurs during this condition. This can be a very expensive treatment for families in countries like the United States where healthcare requires medical insurance not covered by the government, leaving low-income families with nothing to give their children when things get tough. Recently a growth in telephone coaching for parents of children with asthma has become a large part of the treatment program that North America and other countries are now offering these families, and studies show that there is significant improvement.

Coaching Parents Through Peer Training

A new program at the Washington University in their School of Medicine has begun following peer trainers that coach parents of children with asthma over the telephone. This coaching helps parents to better manage their child’s asthma during an attack and as a preventative measure before an attack occurs. This has managed to sharply decrease the number of symptoms children are experiencing as well as reducing the days per month in which children have reactions to this disorder. This has also helped to keep more children home and out of the hospital during attacks. Science Daily explains: “Managing childhood asthma is difficult. Rather than giving daily medications -- even when children feel well -- many parents treat asthma only when symptoms become severe. This practice can lead to missed school days, trips to the ER and hospitalizations.”

Many parents struggle with their inexperience in dealing with the disorder and the peer trainers are helping to give parents the ability to ease their children’s asthma in cases where they might otherwise feel helpless as they watch their kids suffer. The results of these peer training cases have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which is an online medical journal. It advises that asthma is the most common respiratory illness in children, with one in ten kids displaying symptoms at some point in their lives within the United States. This seems to be more Prominent in urban areas, especially where families are low-income.

A Look At Asthma

With asthma affecting so many families across the United States it’s easy to assume that it costs the country billions to treat it. In fact, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has estimated that nearly eighteen billion is spent on asthma alone in the country each year. This is an astounding number that has shocking implications about the way that it is currently being treated. Dr. Robert Strunk, the pediatrics professor at the University, and the senior author of the publication said the following in regards to asthma and the peer training efforts offered by lead researcher Dr. Garbutt as quoted by Washington University News: “Asthma can cause significant problems for children and their families. The peer-training approach makes so much sense because it can help parents overcome barriers that prevent effective use of medications and other issues that interfere with asthma care. Seeing the outcomes of Dr. Garbutt’s study has been gratifying, and I hope that her peer training model can be applied broadly.”

With the cost of medical care going up steadily and the number of cases of asthma across the United States continuing to grow, this latest break through couldn’t have come soon enough.

Reviewing The Study Facts

The trial took place over a two year period during which nine hundred and forty-eight families were monitored. Children in the study ranged from age three to age twelve, and each had asthma at varying levels. These kids were split into two groups, one of which received the usual care that is given to kids with asthma from pediatricians. The other group got the same care, but additionally, also received telephone calls on a regular basis from the peer trainers. Throughout a one year period each family in the second group received eighteen calls, during which they learned new skills regarding dealing with their child’s condition, how to give medication more effectively, and they also received the encouragement that they needed to act on their own when they would usually take a child to the hospital or call a physician. Medscape quotes Dr. Garbutt in saying: “Because the savings come in fewer ED visits and hospitalizations, the intervention might be better matched with insurance companies or accountable care organizations that are spending money now to see outcomes later.”

Dr. Garbutt also suggested that doctors might not encourage this activity because they would have to help train and pay for the peer coaches, but would receive no actual benefit themselves as it would mean less patients. This might not be true of all doctors, as some care more about patient welfare than funds, but for others it would be a fact.Throughout the peer training, parents were allowed to give a topic of which they would like to discuss with their coach, and the topic would be resolved in ten minutes. The findings reported that children in the second group had children who went three weeks longer than the children in the first group in regards to going without an asthma attack. They also learned to keep records of their child’s symptoms on a daily basis by writing it down in a notebook.

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