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programmes for adults with asthma vary widely. Such variability
suggests a lack of consensus on what works and what does not. The
objectives of this paper are to describe asthma education programmes
and assess their variability.
METHODS—A systematic review of reports published between 1979 and 1998 was conducted. Medline, the CINAHL database, the PsycINFO database, the Cochrane collaboration database, the Dissertation Index database, and cross referencing were used to identify educational interventions; 77 projects including 94 interventions that involved 7953 patients were analysed. A standard form was used to record characteristics of studies (design, setting, size, year, and country of publication), projects (theoretical framework, objectives), and education (methods, duration, intensity, educator, and content).
RESULTS—Most reports did not specify the general (56%) and educational objectives (60%) of the intervention. Important training characteristics were often not available: duration of education (45%) and number of sessions (22%), who delivered education (15%), whether training was conducted in groups or was individualised (28%). When this information was available there were wide variations in training methods and content: training duration ranged from 0 (self-education) to 58 hours and the number of sessions from 0 to 36; training tools such as peak flow meters, diary cards or books were used in various proportions of interventions (19%, 27%, and 23%, respectively). The content of education also differed widely between programmes.
CONCLUSIONS—Insufficient documentation of asthma education programmes for adults precludes their replication. This, together with excessive variability, reduces the possibility of identifying their most effective components. A more systematic description of asthma training programmes should be promoted.