Local schools and families are being invited to take part in a new project to improve the health of children with asthma and reduce the number of days they have to miss from school.
Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) have teamed up with Brighton & Hove City Council to deliver Inspire, a project that uses an app to track absences due to asthma-related illness and deliver tailored advice to improve treatment.
On average there are three children with asthma in every classroom in the UK, which has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide. Every year more than one in five children miss school due to asthma-like illness, and children with severe asthma may miss many weeks of vital education.
BSMS Chair of Paediatrics, Prof Somnath Mukhopadhyay, who is the BSMS lead on the project said: “The connection between the health of children and school attainment is well documented. Not only are these children missing out on the quality of life they deserve, but their asthma has a real knock-on effect, impacting on their education, and possibly even their future careers.”
“Reducing school absenteeism through more effective management of illness is a health improvement area that receives the unanimous backing of schools, the NHS and parents and carers.”
Via the app, Studybugs, parents inform the school if their child is unwell and are prompted for details, for example regarding whether the illness was due to asthma or wheeze.
Each child develops an attack of asthma and allergy in a different way and looking more carefully at the events preceding the attack – via Studybugs – could help us develop solutions that are especially useful for each individual child. This is an important future aim for this work.
Twelve-year-old Nathan Jones, from East Grinstead, is currently only in school 70% of the time, due to severe asthma and allergies. His mother Amber Jones explains: “Nathan sleeps very badly because of his asthma and often wakes up wheezy, so we need to get his allergies under control before he can take his medication and go to school. That means he’s often in late. Other days he’s just not well enough to go in, or the school sends him home because he’s reacted to something or his breathing is bad.
“Sometimes they send schoolwork home with Nathan, but it’s not the same without the teacher’s support, and when he’s feeling really rotten he’s just not up to studying. We are coming up to exams at the moment, which is another worry.”
With so many children affected by asthma, the severity of the condition varies greatly from child to child. There are children missing a good deal of school due to severe asthma, as in Nathan’s case, along with those who miss occasional days because of milder asthma, and even children not yet diagnosed but who suffer from common symptoms such as wheezing or cough. The project aims to support all children and families affected by asthma.
Participation in the project is free for schools and parents, and is easy: schools can register in minutes and invite all parents to download the free smartphone app. To find out more, and to participate, visit everychildisdifferent.org/inspire