Working with an asthma coach helps to significantly reduce hospitalizations of low-income, African-American children with asthma, shows a new study.
For the study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill worked with nearly 200 parents of children between 2-8 years old on Medicaid who had been hospitalized for asthma at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Kids were randomly assigned to an asthma coach or to usual care following discharge from the hospital, which included asthma education, an asthma management plan and a suggested follow-up appointment with the child's pediatrician within one week of discharge.
"Compliance with asthma care can often be a challenge," said Robert C. Strunk, M.D., a Washington University asthma specialist at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"The asthma coach provided support for parents dealing with the unrelenting demands of their child's illness," he added.
During two years, the coach was available to parents, 35 of the 96 patients (36.5 percent) in the coaching group were hospitalized at least once, compared with 55 of the 93 patients (59 percent) in the usual-care group.
Edwin B. Fisher, Ph.D., professor of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, co-author of the paper and global director of Peers for Progress, a program to promote peer support in chronic disease, said: "Beyond the good news it provides for asthma care, the asthma coach sets an important model for treating a variety of chronic diseases in children and adults."
"These kinds of programs help people put into practice in their daily lives the plans they agree to in the doctor's office. That's going to be an increasingly important part of health care as more people have problems like asthma and diabetes," Fisher added.
The study was published in the March 2009 issue of Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.