Purpose of the Study. To determine if systematic school-based asthma screening, coupled with primary care provider notification of asthma severity, would prompt providers to prescribe a new preventive medication or change a current dose.
Study Population. The study included 151 children (aged 3–7 years) with mild persistent to severe asthma living in an urban setting.
Methods. A routine school health-and-development form was sent to parents of schoolchildren. When asthma was indicated on this form, the parents were contacted by telephone. To be eligible for the trial, the child’s parent needed to report that a physician had diagnosed their child as having asthma, and the child’s symptoms needed to be consistent with mild persistent asthma or worse according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines. The intervention arm of the study involved notification of the primary care providers via fax of the child’s symptoms and recommendations for action on the basis of national criteria. Confirmation of receipt was received from 90% of providers. In the control arm of the study, primary care providers were not contacted. Interviewers then contacted the parents 3 to 6 months later to determine if preventive actions were taken.
Results. Children in the provider-notification group were not more likely to receive a preventive medication action than children in the control group (21.9% vs 26%). Additional preventive measures such as encouraging compliance with medications, recommending environmental modifications, and referrals to specialty care also did not differ between the 2 groups. The only factors that significantly predicted the occurrence of a preventive action were acute visits for asthma and baseline use of preventive medications. At the end of the study, 52.4% of children in both groups with no medications change were still experiencing symptoms.
Conclusions. School-based asthma screening identified many symptomatic children in need of medication modification, but notification of their primary care providers did not improve preventive care.
Reviewer Comments. Asthma is a complex disease, and there are many barriers to effective care. These barriers include steroid phobia, cost of medication, denial of the presence or severity of the disease, access to health care, exposure to asthma triggers, and poor adherence to treatment. It is concerning that another barrier to effective care of asthma, as illustrated by this study, is a poor response of health care providers to supportive education, such as treatment guidelines. In an effort to better understand this deficit, the authors queried the providers: “Was the information in the original notification helpful?” Only 27 of 73 providers responded: 10 said the information was helpful (7 changed medications); 9 replied that their patients had mild, intermittent asthma and did not need changes; 4 replied that their patients already were on preventive medications; and 4 replied that they were unable to contact their patients for follow-up.
- Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Pediatrics