Last updated on 26/06/2024


Asthma Australia is collaborating with young students from Arabic speaking backgrounds in Western Sydney to help understand how asthma can be normalised in the school yard. Primary school students from grades three to six, both with asthma and without, will use creative arts to explore and re-frame the challenges kids with asthma face, to create a more supportive environment.

A number of interactive, two-hour workshops will be held at Granville East Public School in May. They will be facilitated by Asthma Australia and led by arts worker and creative producer Claudia Chidiac Makdessi, who is well known locally for her arts projects that help people deepen their capacity for empathy, compassion, kindness and generosity.

The program will kick off with year-three students creating models of asthma puffers and spacer devices to give sometimes-embarrassing asthma medicines an out-of-this-world makeover.

Year-four students will create an asthma awareness banner, while later in the month, year-five students will participate in theatre improvisation. They will identify difficult social situations experienced by kids with asthma, like feeling left out of activities or not being able to play sport, reframe situations and roll-play alternative, more-inclusive scenarios.

Year-six students will also transform challenging social situations with the creation of art like comic or collage.

The Project, which is funded by NSW health, is in its third phase. Phase One saw Asthma Australia consult with parents of children with asthma from Arabic speaking backgrounds to help identify the issues, opportunities and priorities to guide the implementation of local projects.

Phase Two saw Asthma Australia head into three schools in the area to learn more about the personal experiences of young kids with asthma. The first creative arts lessons were introduced with the goal of building a model for delivering culturally appropriate asthma education programs that are co-designed by children.

Phase Three will test and refine these learnings with the general population of children at one school in Western Sydney. Education programs will be finalised and available for all schools to use.

Asthma is a growing issue with kids in Western Sydney. Thirteen per cent were living with asthma in 2018-19 and there has been a steady increase in childhood asthma in the region since 2016. Between 2016-17 the asthma rate was 5.1 per cent, in 2017-2018 it grew to 10.5 per cent and in 2018-19 increased to 13 per cent. (1)

Asthma Australia Interim CEO Doris Whitmore said, “The rate of asthma in Western Sydney is growing every year and asthma is also more prevalent in this area than for the rest of NSW. This is unacceptable and needs to change.

“Our creative arts program has been designed to help bridge the gap in Western Sydney by helping us understand and address the unique needs of children from Arabic speaking backgrounds with asthma.

“What we found out from parents, healthcare professionals and other experts during our early consultations is that children need to have a say in how we build our education programs, so that’s exactly what we did. We used art to help not just facilitate the conversations but co-design the entire program.

“What’s exciting is that the programs we are developing will be suitable for most schools because children with asthma face many of the same challenges, regardless of their cultural background.”

(1) Health Stats. (2022). Asthma Prevalence in Children. Retrieved from Health Stats NSW: HealthStats NSW – Asthma prevalence in children


For more information:
Contact Trinity Frederick, 0413 992 282