Objective. The inability to adhere to a prescribed therapeutic program for the treatment of a chronic disease may be responsible in part for continued disease activity. This problem may be more of an issue in the treatment of asthma, a common, potentially lethal chronic condition in which the lack of symptoms may be interpreted as remission. Adherence was one of the key areas of interest for the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study. The focus of this study was to identify those issues reported by families that could adversely affect their adherence to an asthma care program. The identification of barriers to adherence could then form the basis of a successful intervention program. This study describes barriers to adherence, asthma management behavior, and self-reported adherence.
Methods. Patients presenting during an acute attack of asthma at an emergency department (ED) were recruited for this study. The medical record of the ED encounter was abstracted and compared with information that was obtained during a baseline interview 3 to 5 weeks later. During the baseline interview, parents were asked about health care behaviors related to adherence.
Results. There were 344 children 4 to 9 years of age living in inner city census tracts in the study. Four areas of adherence (medicine use, appointment-keeping, emergency actions, and asthma attack prevention) were investigated. The parental report of medications prescribed at the ED and the information on the abstracted ED report agreed 94.9% of the time for the β-agonists, 86.8% for steroids, and 69.4% for cromolyn. Among respondents, 85.4% of parents reported that they are able to follow the ED recommendations almost all of the time; side effects of medicines were a concern for 81.1% of caretakers who were adherent and for 89.5% of caretakers who were nonadherent. Doubts regarding the usefulness of medications occurred in 34.4% of those considered adherent and 54.2% who admitted nonadherence. Medications were forgotten some of the time by 45.2% of the children, and 52.8% tried to get out of taking medicine. Appointments for follow-up care were kept by 69% of those given an appointment in the ED, by an estimated 60.0% of those who were told specifically to call for an appointment, and by an estimated 25.2% of those who were neither given an appointment nor told specifically to make one. Only one third of parents report that they were able to keep the child away from known asthma triggers nearly all of the time. Approximately half avoided allergens; however, only 37.5% reported avoidance of cigarette smoke. The use of preventive medicines occurred in 23.5%. Using a medicine and taking the child to a physician were reported as the first or second action during an acute attack of asthma by 72.1% of respondents.
Conclusions. Adherence to an asthma-management program involves a number of areas: medication, appointment-keeping, prevention, and applying an emergency plan of action. Barriers to adherence may exist in one or all four of these areas, leading to ineffective control of asthma. Recommendations are made for improving the patient-physician partnership to improve adherence.
- Received June 11, 1997.
- Accepted December 15, 1997.
- Copyright © 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics