Primary school teachers' knowledge of asthma in Umdoni subdistrict, KwaZulu-Natal.
Introduction On the 5th of December 2009, at the 40th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cancun, Mexico, the American Thoracic Society and the Forum of International Respiratory Societies declared 2010 as the “Year of the Lung”. Asthma features amongst the “big five” of the respiratory diseases worldwide. It is estimated that South Africa has the 25th highest asthma prevalence in the world and the 5th highest case fatality rate in the world. Asthma has been reported as one of the most serious common chronic condition affecting young children. The South African media and government reports states that one in eight children in South Africa has asthma. Children spend a considerable amount of time at school. Teachers are often recognised as in loco parentis at school. Therefore, it is imperative that primary schoolteachers have some knowledge of asthma and its management to ensure that asthmatic school children can be assisted. Aim The aim of this study was to elucidate asthma knowledge and management in primary schools in Umdoni subdistrict. Methods A cross sectional study design was used. Two hundred and twenty six schoolteachers’ from 19 primary schools participated in this paperless survey. An asthma knowledge questionnaire was developed by the researcher in consultation with a paediatric asthma specialist and was fielded using the Mobile Researcher mobile application channel, provided by Clyral. The survey was conducted using cellular telephones that were used to capture teachers’ responses during face-to-face interviews with fieldworkers. The completed surveys were uploaded using general packet radio service (GPRS) to the web-based “Research Centre”. Data were exported to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, cleaned and then imported into SPSS 15.10 for analysis. Results This study found that although the majority of primary schoolteachers (61.5%) had above 50% correct answers in the asthma knowledge test, the vast majority (95.1%) felt asthma education was necessary for schoolteachers. The results suggest that although teachers have reasonable knowledge on certain areas regarding asthma, however there is huge gap in their knowledge on the care of a child with an acute exacerbation of asthma. The lack of medical or nursing personnel at these schools means that the initial management of the child during an asthma attack will be in the hands of school personnel. In light of this, it is important to note that 38.5% of participants scored less than 50% on an asthma knowledge test, which denoted poor or limited knowledge of asthma and its management. This study also showed that teachers’ knowledge of asthma and sports was deficient and teachers do have misconceptions about asthmatic children’s abilities. None of the schools had written material to guide the management and care of asthmatic children. Such materials would be necessary, especially in circumstances when prompt action is required in a severe acute asthma attack. Conclusion The results conclude that primary schoolteachers’ knowledge in Umdoni subdistrict is deficient especially in the knowledge of the care of a child with an acute exacerbation of asthma. Teachers in Umdoni subdistrict are in contact with and exposed to asthmatic schoolchildren on a regular basis. Teachers have to cope with asthmatic children who have diverse needs. The importance of enhancing school based asthma health promotion strategies is highlighted by the following recommendations: asthma education training for school personnel, participation and support from Departments of Health and Education and the development and implementation of sound asthma policies in schools.