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Improving Asthma Education and Bridging the Cultural Divide

Most people with asthma say they have their disease under control, but studies suggest that less than half of asthma sufferers actually do. One of the ways that the British Columbia Lung Association is trying to increase the number of patients able to effectively manage their asthma is by improving communications with new British Columbians.

British Columbia is home to 16 percent of all immigrants who settle in Canada – many of whom arrive with pre-existing chronic conditions including asthma and who do not have their asthma under control.

“Challenges arise not only because of language barriers – though this is significant – but also because of a lack of trust for the health-care system.  This is due partly to cultural beliefs, their previous health-care experiences, and also because many are simply unaware of our existing health system and practices,” says BC Lung Association Health Education Director Kelly Ablog-Morrant.

A recent study carried out by Dr. Mark Fitzgerald and Dr. Iraj Poureslami, and funded in part by the BC Lung Association, looked at ways to improve the efficacy of asthma-related communications amongst newcomers, in particular the Chinese and Punjabi-speaking communities.

A series of focus groups were held. The goal was to develop culturally resonant materials around asthma management.  This approach has so far proven to be very valuable in creating trust with patients and helping them take control of their asthma.

As a result, videos were created featuring members of targeted cultural communities, including doctors with the same ethnic background and produced in their mother tongue. This approach has so far proved to be very valuable in creating trust with patients, and helping them take control of their asthma.