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Self-management programs may not help teens with asthma

Study finds peer-led self-management programs have little effect on quality of life or lung function for teenagers with asthma.

By Amy Wallace
Self-management programs may not help teens with asthma
A new study has found that peer-led self-management programs may not benefit adolescents with asthma. Photo by M. Dykstra/Shutterstock

June 14 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Warwick suggest teenagers with asthma may not benefit from peer-led self-management programs.

Asthma is an increasingly common and problematic condition in teenagers due to puberty, peer pressure, psychosocial development and healthcare transition.

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"Asthma symptoms can be exacerbated by hormonal changes and new exposures, such as cigarettes and drugs," Dr. GJ Melendez-Torres, who led the study, said in a press release. "In addition, adolescents often experience fear, anxiety, and shame about their illness, and may not take their medication as prescribed to fit in with their peers."

"As a result, young people aged 11 to 17 have double the risk of dying from asthma than children aged 10 and under, and a greater risk of psychosocial problems than those without. These unique challenges and consequences require new approaches to address these adolescents' concerns."

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Peer-led self-management programs are different from regular patient education programs in that they urge patients to take an active role in managing their asthma.

The programs are a critical part of the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, or NAEPP, asthma guidelines. They use organized learning to encourage healthy behaviors.

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Researchers found a slight increase in participants' quality of life and a slight decrease in lung function for those who participated in peer-led self-management programs.

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"According to social learning theory, young people are more likely to have positive attitudes towards modeled behaviors if they can relate to their teachers," said Connie Zhong, a researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"By interacting with educators of similar age and backgrounds, adolescents can seek guidance and increase their self-efficacy to achieve health behavior change. Also role models provide a means for peer identification, which reduces feelings of isolation and increases feelings of normalcy. By normalizing health behaviors, adolescents may better adhere to treatments, leading to improved health."

The study was published June 12 in the Health Education Journal.

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