Innovative process provides fresh thinking & co-designed solutions to help children with asthma in NSW live their best life 

As part of Asthma Australia’s bold goal to halve avoidable asthma hospitalisations by 2030, a key focus is on children 5-9 years old. Research shows children under 14-years-old represent half of all asthma avoidable hospitalisations. But 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 avoidable hospitalisations? 

To address this question and identify the issues and problems linked to asthma in children, the Creating Collective Solutions (CCS) Project was formed.

The project discovered that greater focus is needed on the following areas:

  • Access to good quality asthma education, especially for harder to reach groups
  • Culturally safe programs and tailored information for priority populations
  • To better understand the role of an asthma educator and how to access them.

The project found there are issues with accessing services – despite many services being available. It highlights the 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.

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 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.” 

Read the Creating Collective Solutions Summary Report here.

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, currently no accreditation standard exists, and making it easy to find and access them. 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.” 

Project highlights 

There was a high level of engagement from more than 258 stakeholders, which provided a collaborative approach to solving problems. “The breakdown of cohorts aimed to reflect the various stakeholders that may impact a young person with asthma.”  

The goal of having a working group from a variety of backgrounds was achieved. The process allowed us to gather insights from a wide range of perspectives, promoted collaboration and reach consensus on some priority areas.”  

The CCS project brought to life the potential for collaboration on asthma education projects with health professionals and community in rural settings. Ms Goldman says: “The process engaged stakeholders from new sectors, uncovered some potential ‘champions’ and introduced Asthma Australia to new contacts and organisations to work with. 

“It provided us with insights about how our stakeholders are using  evidence-based approaches; and consider focussed intervention pilots, for example, by geography; or by issue or barrier.  

From the survey, 12 priorities were identified, which included education and individual health behaviour and risk management (child and/or parent focussed).  “Surprisingly, there were fewer priorities that focussed on the environment and other socioeconomic factors, including housing and indoor air quality. Also, we anticipated more focus on health system reorientation and health system structural barriers/solutions. 

Where to from here 

The individual survey responses provided varied insights, suggestions and unique focal points that Asthma Australia can review further. 

“These responses have been sorted with a social determinants of health lens, which includes suggestions related to health care, health behaviours, physical environment, and socioeconomic factors. These suggestions have been reviewed and will contribute to Asthma Australia’s strategy on working with children with asthma, and are one source of knowledge to develop a NSW specific project.” 

“It also reinforces the importance of the ongoing Asthma Australia education for health professionals (ex. REED training), school staff, parents/carers and the children who have asthma (via online learning modules, info provided on our website and in social media), and focusing on reaching those in high-risk communities,” Ms Goldman says. 

The final results indicate the value of access to education and services as a main priority to support young people with asthma. This with the 12 main priorities depicted support the current activities implemented by Asthma Australia. 

The solutions and ideas have been scrutinised and some will help inform our practice moving forward. We are conducting a broader needs assessment in NSW, including supporting children with asthma from Arabic speaking communities within Sydney (and potentially the Illawarra region). This will involve further consultation with various stakeholders, including Arabic speaking carers of primary school aged children with asthma.