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Australian first: novel approach to help young people control asthma and improve mental health

By admin / July 11, 2017

SYDNEY: A new mobile application (app) being launched today, on World Asthma Day, will support young people to manage their asthma and improve their quality of life.

Eleven percent of young Australians have asthma, one of the highest rates in the world. Currently there are no evidence-based, co-designed apps on the market to support them.

This is the first asthma app to use a co-design model, with young people actively involved in deciding the app’s content and design.

A 2014 survey of more than 500 12-25 year-olds with asthma found 63% had poorly controlled asthma, 52% were likely to experience mental health issues and 56% said asthma limits their enjoyment of life.

Asthma Australia funded a team of researchers, clinicians and app developers led by the University of Sydney to create the app to address the needs of young people. They collaborated with a group of young people with asthma as co-developers, who named the app Kiss MyAsthma.

Kiss MyAsthma focuses on asthma management and asthma goals. Users receive notifications from a cast of monster characters who provide friendly reminders and opportunities to adjust goals to keep users on track.

Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia said; “We chose the University of Sydney to develop this novel platform because they put young people at the heart of the development process, which is vital for the app to effectively address their needs. Asthma affects 1 in 9 young Australians and the National Young People and Asthma Survey clearly demonstrated a need for this app, to support young people in managing the physical, social and emotional impacts of asthma.”

Research1 conducted by the University of Sydney as part of the app development process was published in an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in April, and shows the importance of mental health support for young people with asthma.

No previous asthma app has addressed the self-management and psychological issues associated with asthma and the team from the University of Sydney hope the co-design model could be applied in apps for other chronic diseases.

A/Prof Lorraine Smith from the University of Sydney said: “This is a mobile app designed by young people, for young people. For the app to be effective we were guided by the interests and concerns of young people. We were surprised to learn just how important social and psychological issues were to our young co-designers. They felt strongly that the app should have supportive features to address these needs.”

A key aspect requested by young people is the Emergency Support feature. This shows asthma first aid steps and is designed for young people to show their friends if they need help when having an asthma attack.

Sydney based Alicia Mitchell is a 24-year-old PhD student who took part in the app development.

“When I was younger my asthma was quite severe; I spent a lot of time in hospital and the psychological and social impacts of asthma were huge. As a teenager fitting in is important, you don’t want to be different. It was really special to be part of the research and app development. Although I can now manage my asthma well, I know how much it affected my life growing up and I saw many other kids at school who struggled to participate. This is a way I can help young people to understand asthma better so it won’t stop them from enjoying life.”

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