UAMS Researcher Creates Asthma App for Teens

 Tamara Perry, M.D., demonstrates the asthma app to participants in her study.

Tamara Perry, M.D., demonstrates the asthma app to participants in her study.

March 27, 2013 | Asthma rates among certain populations of children in Arkansas are nearly three times the national rate, which has led UAMS’ Tamara Perry, M.D., to test novel methods for addressing the condition.

Perry, an allergy and immunology specialist and associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, is studying interventions for asthmatic children at high risk for poor outcomes due to poverty and lack of access to health care. She hopes that telemedicine and mobile phones can make a difference.

Her Mobile Based Asthma Action Plan study has provided adolescents with phones that contain an app designed to improve their asthma self-management skills. The pilot study has shown that an interactive, mobile-based Asthma Action Plan may be a feasible way to improve asthma management and deliver critical instructions to asthmatic adolescents.

Funding for the app was provided by the UAMS Translational Research Institute and developed by Perry in partnership with the UAMS Center for Distance Health. Her research also received a Translational Research Institute letter of support for a National Institutes of Health grant application.  

The app provides educational tips, reminders for day-to-day management, and instructions, such as whether to use an inhaler or to call 9-1-1, based on results from a peak flow meter, a portable device that measures how fast air exits the lungs. Perry presented the study’s results at the 2013 American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology Conference in San Antonio. The 20 teenagers in the study used the app an average of four days a week with significant improvement in asthma control test scores and asthma self-efficacy scores.

“The children who participated loved it; they enjoyed using the app,” she said.

The Translational Research Institute awarded $50,000 for the pilot study, and the institute’s Community Engagement Component provided equipment and other support to assist with community recruitment activities.

“The Translational Research Institute and its Community Engagement Component have been very helpful with this study, as well as with our ‘Breath Connection’ study,” Perry said.

The Breath Connection study involves telemedicine connections to schools in the Delta where parents, children and school nurses can learn about asthma symptoms, medications, asthma triggers and when to seek emergency care. Perry will compare outcomes of children in groups that participate in the telemedicine program to those who do not.

Based at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Perry also has research interests in the natural history of food allergies and in developing new food allergy treatments.

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