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Asthma Sufferers Benefit from Self-Management Programs

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has found that asthma sufferers benefit from self- management programs designed to educate and that are personalized. The study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that self-management of asthma symptoms could cut down on emergency visits, proving to be cost effective, while improving quality of life among those who suffer from asthma.

Study author Susan L. Janson, DNSc, RN, NP, a UCSF, clinical specialist in pulmonary disease explains, “Mortality from asthma is preventable. However, many patients struggle to manage symptoms on their own and often end up visiting emergency departments. Our study indicates that in a clinical setting, personalized self-management education coupled with self-monitoring may be a cost-effective way to empower patients to better control their disease.” Spending just thirty minutes with a healthcare provider to establish a self-management plan can help asthma sufferers with medication compliance and asthma control.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma control is difficult for 20 million asthma sufferers in the US alone. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reports 2007 spending related to asthma at $19.7 billion. Adding personalized care by educating asthma sufferers about how to self-manage their disease could save money, and improve quality of life for asthmatics.

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The research team studied 84 individuals who were asked to keep a diary of their symptoms and peak airflow measurements over a 24-week period. Forty – five patients in the group also received a personalized session designed to educate about proper use of inhalers, and provide tools about allergen exposure for self-management of asthma. The study authors found that many people incorrectly use inhalers by swallowing the medication or not breathing in deeply.

The study group was also tested for allergens in an effort to reduce asthma flare-ups from environmental exposure. Janson says, “People understandably are reluctant to get rid of a pet or spend money on dust mite covers for their beds without knowing if animals or dust mites are aggravating the disease. A personalized approach helps patients develop skills specific to their own allergies,” making skin allergy testing an important part of self-management of asthma.

The study group receiving personalized care use to help with self-management of asthma, used rescue inhalers less often, and awakened less during the night, an indication of better asthma control. The asthma group taught to self-manage asthma symptoms also had lower levels of tryptase, an allergy marker found in the bloodstream, also indicating better asthma control.

The study shows that asthma sufferers benefit from personalized self-management programs, designed to educate about proper use of medications, and by learning how to control asthma symptoms that might be directly related to environmental allergens. Self-management programs could reduce emergency visits and cut costs related to asthma care.