BACKGROUND--To improve asthma control and reduce readmission rates through increased knowledge and the development of self management skills, a brief (three hour) adult education programme was developed. METHODS--The course was designed to improve inhaler skills and to teach how to adjust drug doses according to peak flow (PEF) measurements and a treatment plan. It was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial in 76 patients admitted to hospital for asthma by using questionnaires, spirometry, and home monitoring of PEF at entry and at five and 10 months after intervention. The questionnaire provided measures of knowledge about asthma, self management behaviour appropriate to asthma control, asthma symptom frequency and severity, and psychosocial disturbance attributable to asthma. RESULTS--During the 10 months observation period the readmission rate for the educated group was one seventh that of the control group and attendance at accident and emergency departments also decreased. No consistent differential improvements were observed in spirometric results, average PEF, or mean daily variability of PEF. Both groups showed improvements in measures of asthma knowledge, behaviour, symptoms, and psychosocial disturbances. However, the intervention group showed a significantly greater improvement in some measures of asthma knowledge and self management skills. CONCLUSION--Despite minimal effect on measures of airway function, substantial changes in illness behaviour and use of health care facilities can be achieved by a brief asthma education programme.
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