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Educational disadvantages faced by children with asthma

Educational disadvantages faced by children with asthma must be tackled

“The educational disadvantages faced by young New Zealand children with asthma are unacceptable and the Government needs to act decisively,” says the Asthma Foundation’s Chief Executive, Jane Patterson.

“We now have strong evidence that New Zealand children with asthma are facing significant educational disadvantages because of their asthma,” Jane says.

She was commenting on the Children’s Learning Study done at Canterbury University, which features in the latest issue of CHEST (a North American respiratory journal). Among 298 five year olds at eight Christchurch schools from between 2005 and 2008, the children with asthma were far more likely to have fallen behind in their reading ability by the end of their first year than those without asthma. The low achievement was independent of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, ability level, absence, asthma severity and behaviour problems.

“This is likely to be very similar in other parts of New Zealand. This is worrying because of the vital stage of learning that new entrant children are in and because impaired reading will undermine their self confidence in addition to their intellectual learning, “Jane says.

‘However, with some leadership and effective collaboration we could tackle this problem.

“Considering that it is estimated 1 in 4 New Zealand children has asthma and about 500 000 school days are lost to asthma each year in Aotearoa, we need the Ministries of Health and Education or the National Health Board to do something about this. There is a role for asthma organisations and health professionals, but leadership from the public sector is required.

“The Children’s Learning Study has provided some extremely useful data and we are thrilled to have been involved in funding it, “Jane says.


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