While guidelines recommend that children with asthma should receive asthma education, it is not known if education delivered in the home is superior to usual care or the same education delivered elsewhere. The home setting allows educators to reach populations (such as the economically disadvantaged) that may experience barriers to care (such as lack of transportation) within a familiar environment.
To perform a systematic review on educational interventions for asthma delivered in the home to children, caregivers or both, and to determine the effects of such interventions on asthma-related health outcomes. We also planned to make the education interventions accessible to readers by summarising the content and components.
We searched the Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register of trials, which includes the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED and PsycINFO, and handsearched respiratory journals and meeting abstracts. We also searched the Education Resources Information Center database (ERIC), reference lists of trials and review articles (last search January 2011).
We included randomised controlled trials of asthma education delivered in the home to children, their caregivers or both. In the first comparison, eligible control groups were provided usual care or the same education delivered outside of the home. For the second comparison, control groups received a less intensive educational intervention delivered in the home.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently selected the trials, assessed trial quality and extracted the data. We contacted study authors for additional information. We pooled dichotomous data with fixed-effect odds ratio and continuous data with mean difference (MD) using a fixed-effect where possible.
A total of 12 studies involving 2342 children were included. Eleven out of 12 trials were conducted in North America, within urban or suburban settings involving vulnerable populations. The studies were overall of good methodological quality. They differed markedly in terms of age, severity of asthma, context and content of the educational intervention leading to substantial clinical heterogeneity. Due to this clinical heterogeneity, we did not pool results for our primary outcome, the number of patients with exacerbations requiring emergency department (ED) visit. The mean number of exacerbations requiring ED visits per person at six months was not significantly different between the home-based intervention and control groups (N = 2 studies; MD 0.04; 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.20 to 0.27). Only one trial contributed to our other primary outcome, exacerbations requiring a course of oral corticosteroids. Hospital admissions also demonstrated wide variation between trials with significant changes in some trials in both directions. Quality of life improved in both education and control groups over time.
A table summarising some of the key components of the education programmes is included in the review.
We found inconsistent evidence for home-based asthma educational interventions compared to standard care, education delivered outside of the home or a less intensive educational intervention delivered at home. Although education remains a key component of managing asthma in children, advocated in numerous guidelines, this review does not contribute further information on the fundamental content and optimum setting for such educational interventions.