A lunch-hour educational program can enhance asthmatic workers'' ability to manage their disease, reduce healthcare costs for employers, and improve productivity, suggests a study in the February issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
"A worksite-based disease management program for asthma should result in medical care cost avoidance, reduced absenteeism and improved worker productivity," said Dr. Wayne Burton and collegaues.
The researchers conducted a five-week educational program for asthmatic employees of a large bank.
In lunch-hour sessions led by a nurse specialist, the employees learned about key topics in asthma management, including recognizing and treating asthma attacks, using medications properly, and monitoring the disease.
For the 41 asthmatic workers who attended all sessions and completed all study questionnaires, the program significantly improved their ability to manage the disease.
After the program, the workers used more "controller" medications to prevent asthma attacks, and fewer "reliever" medications after attacks occurred.
The program helped reduce barriers to asthma care, including communication and knowledge barriers.
Participants reported fewer nighttime wakings, which are a sign of poor asthma control; fewer missed work days; and increased use of written treatment plans.
"The positive results were obtained immediately after the completion of the five-week educational program and continued to improve over 12 months," according to researchers.
Asthma is an increasingly common disease, affecting about 6 percent of the U.S. population.
It accounts for an estimated 3 million missed work days per year and causes reduced employee productivity.
Although many managed care organizations offer asthma management programs, there have been few studies of asthma management programs in the workplace.
by Virginia Sutcliffe