Keeping children with asthma healthy and in school is the aim of the Inspire mobile app project at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.
Inspire is the brainchild of researchers at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School whose aim is to tackle asthma at an early age using digital technology. Local schools and families have been invited to take part by the local council to improve outcomes for asthmatic children and reduce their absences from school.
There are an average of three children with asthma in every UK classroom. In fact the country has some of the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide. Each year more than one in five children miss school days due to asthma-like illness, and severe asthma sufferers can miss weeks of their education.
Unhealthy Children are Disadvantaged at School
Lead paediatrician at the medical school, Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, said the connection between children’s health and their school attainment is well known. “Not only are these children missing out on the quality of life they deserve, but their asthma has a real knock-on effect, impacting on their education, and possibly even their future careers.”
“Reducing school absenteeism through more effective management of illness is a health improvement area that receives the unanimous backing of schools, the NHS and parents and carers,” he added.
Using an app, Studybugs, parents tell the school if their child is unwell and are asked for more detail, such as whether the illness is caused by asthma or wheeze. Because children develop asthma attacks or allergies in different ways, Studybugs looks at events leading up to the attack and could lead to treatments tailored to individual children.
Cases Like Nathan Need Management
Cases like twelve-year-old Nathan Jones highlight the problem. Nathan, from East Grinstead, is only in school 70 per cent of the time, due to severe asthma and allergies. His mother Amber Jones said: “Nathan sleeps very badly because of his asthma and often wakes up wheezy, so we need to get his allergies under control before he can take his medication and go to school. That means he’s often in late.
“Other days he’s just not well enough to go in, or the school sends him home because he’s reacted to something or his breathing is bad. Sometimes they send schoolwork home with Nathan, but it’s not the same without the teacher’s support, and when he’s feeling really rotten he’s just not up to studying.”
Monitoring Symptoms Using the App
As the condition’s severity varies greatly from child to child, some miss a lot of school like Nathan, while others miss occasional days due to milder asthma. Yet others are undiagnosed but suffer from common symptoms such as wheezing or cough. Inspire looks to support all children and families affected by asthma.
Schools and parents can participate in the Studybugs project – which reports all types of symptoms and illnesses – free of charge and registration takes minutes. They can download the free smartphone app at studybugs.com and find out more, or participate in, Inspire at www.everychildisdifferent.org/inspire.