Objective: To establish the number and type of asthma patient education programs throughout Canada.
Design: National survey.
Methods: Over a three-year period, contact was made with individuals and groups offering educational services for patients with asthma. Education given as part of a physician's consultation or a pharmacist's dispensing of medications for asthma was not considered a patient education program for the purposes of the survey. Contact was initially established by asking staff from well known asthma programs to provide lists of other such programs in their provinces or regions. Asthma programs were also identified from notices presented at Canada's Third and Fourth National Conferences on Asthma and Education. Lung associations, lay organizations and industry representatives affiliated with the Canadian Network for Asthma Care helped to supplement the list. Once identified, each patient education program was contacted by telephone and by mail to complete a 26-item questionnaire about their program. The province of Quebec was not included in the survey because it already had a province-wide, structured asthma education program and register.
Results: Seventy-four asthma education and management programs were identified outside Quebec. Staff in these programs were registered nurses (n=46), respiratory therapists (n=48) and other health professionals (n=21). Forty-one programs stated that at least one member of their staff had been trained as an asthma educator. In 71 programs, the initial patient encounter was of at least one hour's duration. Physician referral was required by 41 programs. The province of Quebec has a joint asthma education program provided by 114 asthma education centres throughout the province under the umbrella of the Quebec Asthma Education Network (QAEN). This comprehensive program is provided in hospitals and community centres by specialized educators - nurses, pharmacists or respiratory therapists - to patients referred by their physicians.
Conclusions: A three-year search for asthma education programs in Canada identified 74 patient education programs (outside Quebec) for an asthma population estimated to exceed 1.2 million. For the province of Quebec, an integrated asthma education program is provided through a network of 114 education centres - the QAEN. The present survey shows that there has been progress in establishing asthma education programs in Canada, although there are significant regional differences in the availability of such programs.