More than any other segment of the Australian population, children aged under 15 are admitted to hospital because of asthma, a serious condition of the lungs that affects breathing. For most of these children, this escalation to hospital is not only frightening but can often be avoided. This is particularly the case for younger children aged 5-9, who account for the highest rate of avoidable hospitalisations.
These young people and their parents are the focus of Asthma Australia’s bold goal to halve avoidable asthma hospitalisations in Australia by 2030.
So why is this happening? What are the barriers to progress and what can we do to help parents and carers of children with asthma establish good health early in life, and reduce hospitalisations?
To address this question and identify the issues and problems linked to asthma in children, the Creating Collective Solutions (CCS) Project was formed.
Funded by the Australian Government and conducted by Asthma Australia with Social Marketing @ Griffith University, it involved bringing together different stakeholders to recognise barriers and agree upon solutions in the target pilot area of New South Wales.
Asthma Australia, CEO, Michele Goldman, says the CCS Project used an innovative methodology to deeply understand contributing factors to a specific asthma problem.
“The stakeholder group included parents and / or carers of children with asthma, paediatricians, GPs, pharmacists, researchers, people working in environmental health and housing, members that identify as Aboriginal, stakeholders from non-English speaking backgrounds, members from the food and nutrition sector, education, urban planning and the Department of Health,” Ms Goldman explains.
A trigger question was formed, “What can we do as a community to support children aged 5-9 years living with asthma in NSW to live their best life?”, which resulted in more than 258 stakeholders responding to the trigger question via a survey. Survey respondents were asked to provide up to five responses to the trigger question.
Ms Goldman says the approach revealed the importance of enabling access to good quality asthma education, especially for harder to reach groups; and there’s a need for culturally safe programs and tailored information for priority populations.
“It showed that there are issues with accessing services – we have a lot of programs and services but are they accessible by those most in need? We need to engage directly with communities to understand their needs; and establish solutions that empower children to better understand and be involved in managing their own asthma.”
It also highlighted the need to better understand the importance of an asthma educator, and key questions such as what defines an asthma educator, how do you find one and how can people access an asthma educator?
“Professionalising the asthma education workforce as no accreditation standard currently exists, and this would make it easier to find and access this support. There may be an opportunity for the asthma educator to also be a community connector for families and carers of a child with asthma – providing additional benefits,” Ms Goldman adds.
Both the raw survey data and the priority actions and proposed solutions from the workshop will be used to help inform Asthma Australia’s longer-term national approach to addressing paediatric asthma.
“The innovative process reiterated more support from organisations like Asthma Australia is needed to fill the gaps for children with asthma,” Ms Goldman adds.
“The findings are significant in validating the direction Asthma Australia has been taking, and our plans for the future. The solutions developed by the group will also aid us in creating a plan Asthma Australia will deploy as part of its overall strategy to reduce the impact of asthma in Australian children.”
To read more please visit the project page here.