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

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.”

Kiss MyAsthma app features include:

  • symptom tracking
  • mood tracking
  • recording asthma attacks
  • emergency support

Young people can share tracked data with doctors to help manage treatment.

Dorian Peters is an Interface & UX Specialist at the University of Sydney, she said: “The app takes a holistic approach to asthma management. By working with users from the beginning we discovered that psychological impacts are an important part of the asthma experience, so the design takes this into account - from the features we included right down to the friendly characters, calming colours and imagery we used. That’s what makes this app really unique.”

The app will be launched at an event at the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym where a group of young people with asthma who were co-designers of the app will be ‘getting on top’ of their asthma and scaling an indoor climbing wall for the first time.

ENDS

Media: Annette Stenhouse 0416 861 732

Interviews are available with:

Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia

Alicia Mitchell – young person with asthma involved in app development

Associate Professor Lorraine Smith, (app project lead) University of Sydney

 

Media conference:

Who

Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia

Associate Professor Lorraine Smith, The University of Sydney

Young person with asthma; Alicia Mitchell

When

Tuesday 2nd May 2017

What

9.45

MEDIA CALL

VISION OPPORTUNITIES: Young people with asthma participating in an indoor climbing lesson

 

10.00

Speeches - Michele Goldman, Lorraine Smith and app demonstration by Dorian Peters

 

10.25

Young people with asthma share their stories

 

10.30

All speakers will be available for interview.

Additional footage opportunity with young people climbing

Where

Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym, 1-7 Unwins Bridge Road, St Peters 2044

 

About Asthma Australia

For over 50 years Asthma Australia and Asthma Foundations have been the leaders in asthma health care, research and support. Asthma Australia delivers evidence-based preventative health strategies to over 200,000 people every year and provides support, training and resources to the primary health care sector. They fund vital basic science and population health research contributing to national and international understandings of asthma and how best to manage the disease.

 

 References:

1Young People’s Preferences for an Asthma Self-Management App Highlight Psychological Needs: A Participatory Study

http://www.jmir.org/2017/4/e113/

 

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