A program at Washington University School of Medicine suggests that peer trainers who coach parents over the phone on managing their children’s asthma can significantly reduce the number of days the child experiences symptoms. The new program also reportedly decreased ER visits and hospitalizations among low-income children with Medicaid insurance.

The 2-year trial evaluated 948 families, recruited from 22 pediatric practices, with asthmatic children ages 3 to 12 years. One group of families received standard asthma care from their pediatricians, while the second group of families also received usual asthma care in addition to regular calls from peer trainers over a one-year time frame.

A news release from Washington University in St. Louis shows that during a series of brief calls, the peer trainers taught parents new skills, such as how to effectively give medications, provided support to help parents better manage their children’s asthma, and encouraged parents to take their children to primary care physician appointments. The calls lasted 10 minutes on average and each family received 18 calls, on average

The Washington University School of Medicine notes that after 1 year of telephone coaching, families in the peer training group reported on average that their children experienced an additional three weeks without asthma symptoms, compared with children in the other group. Also, children with Medicaid showed a similar reduction in asthma symptoms and had 42% fewer ER visits and 62% fewer hospitalizations, and these reductions lasted through a year of follow- up without any further contact with the peer trainers.

The study motivated many parents to start a notebook of daily symptoms, talk to their children’s teachers and treat their children’s asthma daily, as opposed to waiting until symptoms were severe.

Jane Garbutt, MD, says, “We tried a new approach for managing asthma, and it worked. Peer trainers — moms of kids who had asthma — provided education and support to parents to enhance care provided by primary care physicians. This additional support helped parents to better manage their child’s asthma.” Garbutt’s goal is to see the model adopted by insurance companies or hospitals.

Garbutt states, “This is an exciting new approach to chronic disease management, and we would like for it to reach many families. If implemented on a large scale, I think a program like this can help children with asthma live full, healthy lives.”

Source: Washington University in St. Louis