Preschool Children: What They Know About Asthma and How They Learn

Friday, 28 July 2017

Adaya A. Troyer, BSN
College of Nursing, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
Tami Wyatt, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville, TN, USA

Purpose: Childhood asthma is a growing societal problem that causes suffering for children and families. Asthma currently impacts 6.8 million children in the United States, with as many as 50-80% developing symptoms before the age of five ( Beydon et al., 2007; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Insitute, 2007). Short of finding a cure, the best way to address this health concern is to give children with asthma the resources they need to control their condition. Unfortunately, research and resources for young children with asthma are lacking. The authors hypothesize using age-appropriate education via technology, which promotes self-regulation with psychosocial elements, could decrease exacerbations and establish healthy habits.

Methods: This qualitative, descriptive study uses in-depth semi-structured interviews and direct participant observation to explore preliterate children’s (3-5 years) understanding of asthma causes, symptoms, and treatments and educational strategies for this age group. Preliterate children who meet at least 3 out of 4 of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) criteria are interviewed to determine cognitive development and understanding of asthma and are then allowed a free-play period to help determine the children’s preferences for entertainment and educational tools.

Results: A systematic evaluation of texts (e.g., field notes, transcripts) will provide qualitative data to categorize and identify themes. Additional analysis will determine what elements of the entertainment tools are most attractive to children in this age group by evaluating time spent with the toys and children’s physical and verbal responses during the play period.

Conclusion: Research suggests that children can begin learning to regulate their health behaviors within the first few years of life and that early self-regulation leads to better health and socio-emotional outcomes later in life; therefore, educating preliterate children on how to self-manage their asthma is a key step to decreasing asthma exacerbations and healthcare costs (Archibald et al., 2015; Bandura, 2005; Fraley et al., 2013; Lieberman, 2001; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Insitute, 2007; Yang et al., 2010). Early management of asthma also has the potential to minimize stigma placed on the child due to their chronic disease, thus decreasing feelings of social isolation (Stewart et al., 2011). The ability to use a unique and effective education tool for this aggregate of children would be a significant benefit for the child experiencing asthma and for the healthcare professionals providing care. These data are the foundation to develop future educational materials that enhance cognitive understanding and health-related behavioral regulation in preliterate children diagnosed with asthma.