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Ease the wheeze: parent networks key to relieving asthma burden

Ease the wheeze: parent networks key to relieving asthma burden

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

New research shows how much parents rely on family, friends and other parents to make important decisions about their child’s asthma care.

Dr Pamela Srour-Alphonse and colleagues from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney interviewed parents about how and where they get information about their child's asthma. The results have been published in the journal Pulmonary Therapy.

The researchers found that personal connections were almost as important as healthcare professionals when parents were seeking information about their child's asthma.

"For the first time we’ve been able to see just how important and influential 'lay' sources of information like friends and family are to parents," says Dr Srour-Alphonse. 

One parent, for example, provided the following description of how they sought information about how to use a spacer:

“The doctor told me, obviously, but I had forgotten, and you just want help from other people as well on a regular basis to feel more confident. So, I would talk to the other parents and they'll be like, oh, do this and do that, and we sort of put information together.”

Diverse and fluid networks

“What we have found is that parents’ health networks are large, complex and variable, and health professionals are far from the sole provider of key advice and information,” says Dr Srour-Alphonse.

“Lay information sources play an important role in helping parents make important decisions, especially when the family hasn’t built a strong, trusting relationship with their doctor.” 

Parents' health networks were found to be 'fluid': their size and composition changed over time. Fluidity was determined by several key factors, including satisfaction with healthcare providers, convenience, trust, self-confidence, and a parent’s perception of the severity of their child’s asthma.

A new approach

This research highlights the need for a new ‘community’ approach to the management of paediatric asthma that involves both medical and non-medical individuals.

The Woolcock team hopes the findings will be used to develop interventions or programs that help healthcare professionals and the community provide better support to parents in managing their children’s asthma well.

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