Aim: While asthma education increases knowledge, it is less clear whether education influences actual patient behavior. To determine whether there are differences between asthma self-management knowledge and the actual behavior of patients during an acute severe asthma attack and to determine which clinical and psychosocial factors are associated with knowledge and behavior.
Methods: Validated hypothetical scenarios describing the development of life-threatening asthma and patients' reported actual behavior were scored (out of 25) using a system based on Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and British Thoracic Society criteria.
Results: In 137 patients admitted to the hospital with severe asthma, the pattern of the index attack was slow onset (> or = 6 h) in 96%. The score for the hypothetical attack (knowledge) was 13.8 +/- 4.6, while that for the timeline (behavior) was 10.2 +/- 3.9 (p < 0.001) with 56% and 84%, respectively, having a score of less than 15 (regarded as inadequate). Certain components showed marked discrepancy (eg, appropriately seeking medical help 82% vs 52% (p < 0.001) and calling ambulance 61% vs 23% (p < 0.001). Factors such as physician-patient relationship, previous asthma morbidity, availability of peak flowmeter, action plan, and oral steroids correlated positively with both measures. Knowledge was negatively associated with being non-European, with anxiety, pessimism, and stigmatization. Behavior (but not knowledge) was negatively associated with lack of knowledge of what to do in the index attack, previous emotional counseling, and business failure. Those factors associated with the difference between knowledge and behavior scores (knowledge-behavior gap) were being non-European, anxiety, pessimism, and stigmatization, concerns about medical costs, and the only income for the household being a Social Security benefit.
Conclusion: There are marked differences between patients' self-management knowledge and their actual behavior, particularly in terms of potentially life-saving actions. Psychological, health-care, and socioeconomic factors have a powerful and differential influence on knowledge and behavior. Improved understanding of the discrepancies between knowledge and behavior and which factors influence them may lead to more effective asthma educational interventions.