Background: Guidelines recommend preventive medications for all children with persistent asthma, yet young urban children often receive inadequate therapy. This may occur in part because primary care providers are unaware of the severity of their patients' symptoms.
Objective: To determine whether systematic school-based asthma screening, coupled with primary care provider notification of asthma severity, will prompt providers to take preventive medication action (prescribe a new preventive medication or change a current dose).
Design: Children aged 3 to 7 years with mild persistent to severe persistent asthma were identified at the start of the 2002-2003 school year in Rochester. Children were assigned randomly to a provider notification group (child's primary care provider notified of asthma severity) or a control group (provider not notified of severity). Primary care providers of children in the provider notification group were sent a facsimile indicating the child's symptoms and recommending medication action based on national criteria. Interviewers blinded to the child's group assignment called parents 3 to 6 months later to determine if preventive actions were taken.
Results: Of 164 eligible children with mild persistent or more severe asthma, 151 (92.1%) were enrolled. Children in the provider notification group were not more likely to receive a preventive medication action than were children in the control group (21.9% vs 26.0%; P = .57). Additional preventive measures, including encouraging compliance with medications (33.3% vs 31.3%; P = .85), recommending environmental modifications (39.3% vs 42.4%; P = .86), and referrals for specialty care (6.6% vs 6.0%; P > .99), also did not differ between the provider notification and control groups. At the end of the study, 52.4% of children in both groups with no medication changes were still experiencing persistent symptoms.
Conclusions: School-based asthma screening identified many symptomatic children in need of medication modification. Provider notification, however, did not improve preventive care. Findings suggest that more powerful interventions are needed to make systematic asthma screening effective.