Background: Several studies have examined the influence of asthma education, focusing mainly on the use of health services.
Objectives: To assess the influence of an asthma education program (AEP) on airway responsiveness, asthma symptoms, patient quality of life (QOL) and environmental control.
Design: A prospective, randomized, controlled study with parallel groups.
Setting: Three tertiary care hospitals in Quebec.
Population: One hundred and eighty-eight patients with moderate to severe asthma.
Intervention: After optimization of asthma treatment with inhaled corticosteroids, patients were randomly assigned to receive either an education program based on self-management (group E) or usual care (control group C).
Results: One year after an AEP, there was a significant decrease in the number of days per month without daytime asthma symptoms in group E only (P=0.03). Asthma daily symptom scores decreased significantly in group E in comparison with group C (P=0. 006). QOL scores improved markedly in both groups after treatment optimization during the run-in period (P<0.01). After an AEP, the QOL score increased further in group E patients in comparison with group C patients (P=0.04). The concentration of methacholine that induces a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (PC20) improved significantly in both groups (group E 1.2+/-1.1 to 2.4+/-0. 2, group C 1.5+/-1.2 to 2.4+/-1.3, P<0.01). After one year, 26 of 37 patients from group E sensitized to house dust mites (HDM) adopted the specific measures recommended to reduce their exposure to HDM, while none of the 21 subjects from group C did (P<0.001). Among the patients sensitized to cats or dogs, 15% of patients from group E and 23% of patients in group C no longer had a pet at home at the final visit (P>0.5).
Conclusions: One year after the educational intervention, it was observed that the program had added value over and above that of optimization of medication and regular clinical follow-ups. The education program was highly effective in promoting HDM avoidance measures but minimally effective for removing domestic animals, suggesting that more efficient strategies need to be developed for the latter.