Program

Dec 27, 2010

OVERVIEW

Health Buddy is a program in which children and adolescents with asthma use a
personal, interactive communication device that is connected to a home telephone
to keep track of their asthma symptoms, peak flow readings, use of medications
and health services, and restricted activity. The main aim of the program is to
reduce restricted activity. An evaluation of Health Buddy found a positive
impact for restricted activity, peak flow readings, and taking medication
without reminders.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
Children and adolescents with persistent asthma

This intervention involves daily use of the Health Buddy device by children with
asthma. Health Buddy is a personal, interactive communication device connected
to a home telephone that presents information and questions and records
responses. Children are asked questions about their asthma symptoms, peak flow
readings, use of medications and health services, and restricted activity. The
device gives immediate feedback and also provides asthma facts and trivia
questions to increase children’s curiosity and learning. For example, if a child
says that he/she missed out on activities because of asthma, the device would
suggest talking to a doctor.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Evaluated population:
134 children ages eight to sixteen with persistent asthma who attended a clinic
at a children’s hospital in Oakland, California. The sample was 76 percent
African American, 10 percent white, and 14 percent other. The average age was 12
years, and 57 percent were male.

Approach:
Children were randomly assigned to the Health Buddy intervention or a control
condition in which children track their symptoms, peak flow readings, medication
use, and restricted activity in an asthma diary. Data on primary and secondary
outcomes were collected daily through the Health Buddy device for the
intervention group and through asthma diaries for the control group. The primary
outcome was restricted activity, which is an indicator of functional status.
Secondary outcomes were asthma symptoms, peak flow readings, use of health
services due to asthma, and school absences due to asthma. Peak flow readings
measure lung function and readings in the yellow or red zones indicates that
peak flow is less than 70 percent of the normal readings. Data were also
collected at pre-test and six and twelve week follow-ups on self-care behaviors.

Results:
Asthma symptoms and peak flow readings in the yellow and red zones decreased for
both the intervention and control groups at six and twelve weeks. However, the
intervention group had significantly fewer peak flow readings in the yellow and
red zones and was less likely to report restricted activities compared with the
control group. In terms of self-care behaviors, the intervention group was more
likely to take asthma medication without any reminders. The intervention group
also had fewer urgent calls to health services. There was no impact on
coughing/wheezing, trouble sleeping, school absences, emergency department
visits, or hospitalizations.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Guendelman, S., Meade, K., Benson, M., Chen, Y.Q., & Samuels, S. (2002).
Improving asthma outcomes and self-management behaviors of inner-city children.
Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 156,114-120.

KEYWORDS:
Children (3-11), Adolescents (12-17), Males and Females (Co-ed), Black/African
American, Urban, Health Status/Conditions

Program information last updated on 12/27/10.