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Asthma is now the most common chronic childhood illness in Britain and the prevalence is increasing. (1) Currently 1.5 million children (aged 2-15 years) in the UK are estimated to have asthma, giving the country one of the highest prevalences in the world, (2) with estimated costs of [pounds sterling]100-150m. (3) Asthma also has a significant social impact, including school absence (4) and poorer psychological health. (5)
Educational programmes for children with asthma have been around since the 1940s, albeit in varying guises, utilising leaflets, group work, individualised training, home visits, and specialised camps. (6-9) The goal behind them has always been to improve the child's physical and/or psychological management of their asthma. (10) More recently, attention has focused on the potential contribution of multimedia computer programs to paediatric health education. (11) Multimedia software delivers information to a laptop or desktop computer screen using a range of visual and auditory forms, including animation, video, voice over, and sound effect. The interactive capabilities of such programs and their potential to store users' responses can be harnessed to provided personalised information in engaging forms such as games or quizzes. Computer technology has altered the way children spend their free time, and has become increasingly integrated into education, possibly because of expectations that all learning must be "fun". (12) Educational software developers have been quick to catch up with this demand for "edutainment", and packages have been developed for a variety of illnesses, including asthma. (13 14) Arguably, they are suited to paediatric education because they combine familiar technology with interesting graphics that hold children's attention. (11 15 16) Voice-overs and graphical demonstrations can enhance comprehension of complicated concepts that might otherwise be hampered by the child's level of literacy. Such technologies can also reduce demands on parents and medical staff in terms of information provision. (14) Furthermore, Dorman highlights the potential benefits of allowing children to "role play" asthma management in a safe environment, before transferring those skills to the real world. (12)
This review will explore the rationale behind educational programmes for children with asthma and explore the role of multimedia in meeting children's information needs.
Why do children with asthma need health education?
Expansion in the provision of health education for children with asthma has been driven, at least in part, by a growing acceptance that children with chronic conditions should be actively involved in the management of their illness and in decisions about treatment. (9) Proposed …