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How asthma has affected me throughout my life

Word and artwork contributed by Robert Adoo Kissi-Debrah 

My name is Robert Adoo Kissi-Debrah and I am 15 years old. I live in southeast London, and I’ve had asthma since I was 1. Because of this, I’ve had to take asthma medication every single morning and night.

I walk to school with my twin sister almost every day to get as much exercise and fresh air as possible. When we walk, we must avoid main roads due to the high pollution from all the cars, which could trigger my asthma. If I start to cough, wheeze, or feel a tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing, I must use my salbutamol. It can help by relaxing the muscles of the airways into my lungs, which makes it easier to breathe. Salbutamol comes in an inhaler (a puffer).

Sometimes it will be hard to take an inhaler properly (especially if you are having an asthma attack), so I must make sure that my sister and friends know how to use an inhaler properly. Since I am with them most of the time, if anything happens to me, they will be able to help.

However, I have not had to even use my salbutamol in over a month, and I have not had to go into A&E in over 3½ years due to my asthma being under control. It is important that it is controlled right now as things such as the heat could easily trigger my asthma if it were not controlled.

Exercise is important to me as it keeps me healthy by reducing inflammatory proteins. This reduction improves how my airways would respond to exercise. The more I work out, the more my lungs get used to consuming oxygen and their capacity increases. If I am not careful and push myself too much though, it could lead to narrowing of the airways in the lungs. This could cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms during or after exercise. Usually I am fine though, as I know my limits and when I need to stop. To exercise, I go to the gym every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I also walk to school and back home every day, which is about 3.4 miles. When having an asthma attack, you are too breathless to speak, eat or sleep. Your breathing is getting faster, and it feels like you cannot catch your breath. You can also feel chest tightness or pain. Your peak flow score will also be lower than normal.

When I was younger, I had to go to the hospital a lot. I would have to stay overnight on my own which could be scary and upsetting, but my spirits were lifted when my family and friends came to visit in the mornings. This affected my learning as I would not be able to go to school. At that time, I felt like this was a good thing, but now I realise missing lessons for days can leave you with quite a large gap in your knowledge that you will have to catch up on when you get back to school.

Asthma doesn’t just affect your learning when in hospital but also when in school. If I had to take my inhaler at school, I would have to leave the class. When taking my inhaler in primary school, I would always feel embarrassed and feel like everyone would be watching me, but now I realise the importance of it and how, if taken incorrectly, it could leave you in a worse situation.

My mum runs The Ella Roberta Foundation, which raises awareness about asthma and improves air quality for everyone, everywhere. We campaign for asthma guidelines to be followed by governments, councils, medical professionals, and the public, all over the world. The Ella Roberta Foundation believes in a world where clean air is a human right and that everyone should be able to breathe air that is free from toxic pollution, regardless of where they live, their economic status or their ethnic background.

Asthma is a long-term medical condition that has affected me my whole life. Although it can be challenging at times, I have never allowed it to control my life or hold me back from completing any task ahead of me.

 

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


What the Haringey public health team are doing to support children with asthma

By the Children and Young People’s Public Health Team, Haringey

 

We estimate that 5,038 children in Haringey have asthma. The incidence of asthma-related hospital admissions for children has been decreasing in the borough in recent years and is currently lower than both the London and England averages. Asthma is more prevalent within more deprived communities, and those living in more deprived areas, therefore we want to do as much as possible to address inequalities and wider determinants of health that are linked to asthma amongst children and young people.

 

In Haringey we are taking a whole systems approach to asthma management, including addressing environmental triggers, introducing a comprehensive education programme and promoting personalised care and effective preventative interventions to control and reduce the risk of asthma attacks in Haringey.

The picture in Haringey

Source: Hospital Episode Statistics (HES).

Definition: Emergency hospital admissions of children and young people aged under 19 years with primary diagnosis of either J45: Asthma or J46: Status asthmaticus.

What are the ‘wider determinants’ of health?

Wider determinants of health are a varied range of social, economic and environmental factors that impact on people’s health. The Marmot Review, published in 2010, raised the profile of wider determinants of health by emphasising the strong link between social inequalities and inequalities in health outcomes. Ten years on, a review in 2020 finds that almost all health inequalities in England have been increasing since 2010.

How are we addressing the wider determinants of health in Haringey?

Air Quality

Air quality has a direct impact on asthma. This is why we are working on a range of initiatives, which not only help us towards our climate change targets, but also improve air quality in the borough.  You can visit Asthma + Lung UK for more information on understanding asthma, what the triggers are and what treatments are available.

Haringey has an ‘Air Quality Action Plan’

It outlines the action that we are taking to improve air quality in Haringey between 2019-2024. Click here to see the action plan.

Air Quality Monitoring

We monitor air quality by using monitoring stations (some of these are mobile and can be moved around). We use the readings to identify where air quality is poor.

School Streets

Many schools experience parking, traffic congestion and air quality issues immediately outside their school. Our School Streets programme aims to address these issues. A School Street is where a walk and cycle zone is created outside a school during drop-off and pick-up times. Only people walking and cycling, and those with vehicle permits are permitted to enter the zone.

The School Street creates a safer, more pleasant environment outside the school where children, parents and teachers can travel to school using active modes of travel without the air pollution caused by motor traffic. Click here to see the School Streets Plan. We currently have 25 school streets and aim to introduce more in the future.Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are residential areas where vehicles (except emergency vehicles) are prevented from passing. This is achieved by ‘filtering’ the key access points of certain streets using ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras and planters so that people walking, cycling, or using a mobility scooter can still travel through.

Haringey has been divided into 25 LTN areas which is a starting point for exploring LTNs across the borough. Click here to see a map of LTNs in Haringey. LTNs contribute towards improving air quality by reducing motor traffic. This also helps to reduce noise pollution and road accidents.

Green Screens

A green screen enables vegetation to be introduced to places where other such green infrastructure is not possible, such as street furniture and underground services or where they would be restrictive to air flow. We have provided green screens to four schools in Haringey which are within Air Quality Management Areas. Green screens improve the playground air quality.

Education

Asthma education is a key part of dealing with asthma in Haringey. We work to educate parents, schools, children and the wider community about the causes of asthma, and how to manage asthma.

Asthma Friendly Schools

The Asthma Friendly Schools Programme sets out clear, effective partnership arrangements between health, education and local authorities for supporting children and young people with asthma at primary and secondary schools.

Schools allocate an Asthma Lead and Asthma Champion who attend a training session. The Asthma Lead then delivers the training to staff at their school. The whole school then carry out their Asthma Friendly Schools responsibilities and implement changes, with help from their School Nurse. The School Nurse conducts an audit annually, and schools then achieve their Asthma Friendly School status.

Healthy London Partnership outlines standards and roles & responsibilities of schools in their London schools guide for the care of children and young people with asthma (April 2022). Click here to see the guide.

Parks and green spaces

Leafy greenery improves air quality by absorbing some of the pollutants that can trigger asthma symptoms. Trees, shrubs and turf remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. Over a lifetime of 100 years, one tree could absorb around a tonne of CO2. We are continually improving our green spaces in Haringey, especially in areas with high pollution levels. Haringey’s Parks & Green Spaces Strategy is ongoing to maximise green coverage in our borough.

Good parks and green spaces also encourage our residents to get out and be active, which is beneficial for health and for people living with asthma.

Green Flag Awards

All 22 of our council-run parks have Green Flag Awards. The Green Flag Award scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces.

Tree planting

Haringey were one of the first UK councils to join the National Street Tree Sponsorship Scheme, Trees for Streets, which aims to plant thousands of trees in streets across the borough through sponsorship by local residents. Street trees are important because they improve air quality by acting like natural filters, capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, absorb air pollution and much more. For more information, click here.

The Rangemoor Open Space project is an example of transforming unused spaces into valued assets that are inclusive and accessible, to encourage more positive uses and address the health and wellbeing of residents and the community.

Healthy Weight

We are taking various measures to encourage children to get fit and healthy. Daily exercise helps to improve lung capacity, which is an indicator of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. Children with an unhealthy weight are more likely to develop asthma when compared to those with a healthy weight.

Haringey has initiatives in place such as The Healthy Schools Programme, TfL Stars Active Travel activities, The Daily Mile, bike-ability training, and more. Click here for more information about the Healthy Schools Programme.

School Superzones

We are setting up several ‘Superzones’ around our schools which aim to create healthier and safer places for children and young people to live, learn and play.  Within each zone, we will be looking to reduce unhealthy food and drink, advertisements, alcohol, smoking and poor air quality. The zones cover a 400m area (roughly a 5–10-minute walk) and are designed to protect children’s health and encourage healthy behaviours in more deprived communities. Encouraging children to eat healthier food and reducing air pollution will help to reduce asthma in Haringey.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this Haringey #AskAboutAsthma blog, and if you have any questions, just send an email to: publichealth@haringey.gov.uk and someone from the team will get back to you.

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


How a Digital Health Passport can support your asthma management

By Dr Greg Burch, Joint CEO & Clinical Director, Tiny Medical Apps

Young people love their phones. So it makes sense that we use technology to try to make their health experience better. The Digital Health Passport (DHP) is a mobile self-management app that has been co-designed to help young people take better control of their health. It focuses on making care a bit smarter and more convenient.

The #AskAboutAsthma campaign encourages children and young people, their families, and those involved in their care, to ensure four simple and effective measures to help them control their asthma:

1. Get an asthma action plan in place

The Digital Health Passport provides home for the asthma action plan and makes it easy to share digitally with friends and family. The plan and emergency instructions are always accessible as the mobile phone is never far away!

2.Understand how to use inhalers correctly

The DHP helps teach correct inhaler technique with videos from Asthma & Lung UK and Beat Asthma aimed at younger people. Furthermore it can help to improve adherence with daily reminders to take medication correctly.


3. Schedule an asthma review – every year and after every attack

All the outputs of the review (action plan, symptom/peak flow diary, educational materials, emergency instructions) are all held within the Digital Health Passport. The DHP can help clinicians view symptom graphs over the days and months leading up to the review or the weeks following.

 

4. Consider air pollution and its impact on lung health

The Digital Health Passport has daily air quality alerts, and instructions from the Clean Air Hub. Plus easy to read air quality education. Together, the alerts and knowledge of what to do, may help with trigger avoidance.

The Digital Health Passport will be widely available in 2022/23 with funding from NHS England Transformation Directorate.

 

For more information please get in touch with the developers hello@tinymedicalapps.com

Watch this short video where Greg demos a Digital Health Passport: https://youtu.be/gzWiqcdHWPc.

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


Taking control of my own asthma management

By Olivia Fulton, expert by experience and patient advocate

Being in charge of my own inhalers was a scary and exciting time. It meant there would be one less thing that my parents would nag me about every morning and night and as a young person it felt like the nagging was constant. (As an adult I now know that it was due to care and just wanting the best for me!)

Helping a young a person to manage their asthma independently

I recently spoke to my parents to ask them about when they decided I was ready to take more control of my asthma and how they went about doing it. My mum said she found it hard as there was no rule book to walk her through this but she felt very apprehensive because she did not want me to get unwell but at the same time knew I would need to get into the habit of managing my medication and asthma myself.

Mum decided to use school holidays as the time to start this process as she felt that we had the time to dedicate to the process and I would not be at risk of getting overwhelmed between starting a new routine while also juggling the balance of school.

Taking time to understand my asthma

Before we did anything she wanted to make sure I understood my asthma, what triggers it, the way the medication works on my airways and when I needed to take what had been prescribed. Mum again mentioned that there was no real guidance on this as this was before the internet so any information came from personal knowledge through lived experience from other family members and a leaflet from the GP.

She also didn’t want to do everything at once so broke it down to preventer and reliever as it was different things to remember.

For taking control of my reliever inhaler she initially left my inhaler and spacer out on the hall table so I would see it when putting my shoes on and leaving the house. Gradually I remembered to bring it with me more and more. Initially, whoever I was out with would have one with them so if I had not brought it and had an asthma attack I would be ok and would not be without medication.

Sticking to an inhaler routine

Remembering to take my reliever inhaler with me was always easier as it would give immediate effect when I took it.

My mum likened trying to get me to take my preventer inhaler myself without prompting to trying to get my brothers to brush their teeth; no amount of nagging seemed to work. She said she had to try various different things to try and get me to remember. The only time I did remember was when I had to take my lunchtime dose of preventer because it meant myself and a friend got out of class 5 minutes early – and that also meant I would be near the front of the lunch queue!

Slowly but surely after trying different methods I finally managed to remember to take my preventer inhaler. At first it was in the morning, and then latterly I was able to take all doses independently. Mum found putting my inhaler in places where I could not miss them helped. Even though this meant she was still having to remind me, I was becoming more independent and she did not need to verbally ask me to take it.

Even now the habits that she helped me form, I still do today. It doesn’t matter where I am – home, with family or on holiday, my inhaler gets put by the sink next to my toothbrush. My reliever inhaler is always left next to my house keys and my wallet.

Why patience and persistence are key

The above makes it all sound very straightforward but there were many many bumps in the road, arguments and rebelling on my part against what I was being told to do, but this was not out of the ordinary for children growing up.

Reflecting back I am so grateful for the effort and input of my parents to get me independent in managing my asthma as those habits developed still help me to this day. As an adult I now also appreciate the time and dedication it took especially in a time where they were not able to easily get information or support from other parents going through a similar experience.

One of the hardest aspects I found in taking control of my asthma management was making the right decisions when my asthma was not good. As much as I was desperate to be independent in many aspects of life, I found it hard to make independent choices about when to increase my medication – even though I had a personal asthma action plan on the form attached to my peak flow diary. I would never follow the plan independently; I would defer to my parents to make sure I was doing the right thing, not realising that the decisions they made were taken using the personal asthma action plan. This went on for many years and even now as an adult I will still mention to my parents if I am taking any action to help my asthma.

There is no right or wrong way when handing over the reins to a child. What worked for me will not work for everyone. The method that my parents used with me did not work for my brother. I am very routined in what I do, which is what my mum says made it a bit easier for her to get me more independent in my asthma management – but it was the opposite for my brother. She felt like she was starting from the beginning with him. However, thankfully the internet was well established by then and she could gain greater insight from what others were doing.

I asked mum what was it that made her decide to get me more independent with my asthma. She said it was a gut feeling and she just felt I was ready. Everyone matures at different times – she felt I was ready at a much earlier age than my brother. In an ideal world there would be a guidebook to take you step by step through the process.

The key points that helped myself and my parents to manage my asthma

  • Making sure there was always a back-up in the initial stages of independent asthma management so if something went wrong and I forgot an inhaler then I would not suffer
  • Having a written personalised asthma action plan
  • Patience, it doesn’t always go right
  • Knowledge of asthma, what the inhalers do on the airways
  • Imagination to create ways in which I would remember to take my medication without being verbally prompted

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


High-risk reviews and mentoring pharmacy support to improve care for children and young people with asthma in North West London

Following on from two tragic and preventable deaths in North West London (NWL), the Children and Young People’s (CYP) Asthma Network is keen to support all clinicians who interact with CYP asthma.

Darush Attar-Zadeh is an independent pharmacist and Alison Summerfield is a Paediatric Nurse Consultant working with the NWL CYP asthma network on a project to reduce asthma admissions and support people to live better with asthma.

The project involves supporting pharmacy teams, nurses, GPs and other colleagues in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) through:

  • Developing systems to recognise and manage CYP who are at high risk of asthma exacerbations through optimised medicines management
  • Mentoring experienced pharmacists over 6 weeks to effectively and confidently run an asthma review in CYP.

Alison and one of her colleagues go directly to GP practices to work jointly with pharmacists over 6 weeks. Their style of delivery is to first teach asthma consultations with CYP and their parents/guardians following a structured model. Then the empowered pharmacist runs a session following the same model whilst being supervised and provided with constructive feedback.

Darush delivers at least 3 sessions (3 hours total) of support with the option of group consultations and weekly consolidation session attendance to bolster knowledge.

The sessions support pharmacists/pharmacy technicians mainly across two levels:

Level 1

Searches, audits, influence IT systems to ensure safe ordering and labelling of short-acting beta-agonists (SABA), starting conversations with young patients to help address common myths around SABA and inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use in asthma[1]

Level 2

Pharmacists with more experience in running asthma reviews to help support CYP asthma and parents/guardians on addressing SABA over-reliance, ICS underuse and co-creation of personalised asthma action plans.

Benefits

The skills and knowledge taught from these sessions will be applicable to all ages. Simple to understand metaphors are practiced and competencies from the National CYP asthma bundle are followed.

Metaphor example:

Does this work for explaining when to use relievers and preventers for asthma?

“You have a leak in your house. You can do one of two things: use a bucket or call a plumber.”

What metaphors do you use?

 

 

Working towards competencies from the National CYP asthma bundle:

  • Capability 1: Asthma awareness:
  • LO1: Have a basic understanding of ‘What is asthma?’
  • LO2: Have a basic understanding of why is it a problem?
  • LO3: Understand how common it is and its potential impact/seriousness
  • LO1: Is able to demonstrate basic knowledge of the aims of asthma treatment and the broad principles of achieving it
  • LO1: Is able to demonstrate understanding that it is everyone’s responsibility if a child’s asthma control is inadequate
  • LO2: Is able to demonstrate the ability to recognise signs of poorly controlled asthma (cough, wheeze, overuse of reliever inhalers, school absence, sleep disturbance) and the dangers of over-reliance on SABAs

The training was specifically targeted at high SABA prescribing practices. Information gleaned from the Business Service Authority EPACT 2 database is already showing early indications of safer prescribing patterns in a few of the boroughs.

Preliminary results indicate that all of the practices on the most improved list have undertaken training compared to 51% (19/37) from the practices that show the least improvement (open prescribing data).

Approximately 60% of the practice improvements are seen soon after training/MDT work (but the authors note that this could of course be linked to other factors as well).

 

By Alison Summerfield and Darush Attar-Zadeh
For further information contact: d.attar-zadeh@nhs.net or alison.summerfield@nhs.net.

References

1 https://www.pcrs-uk.org/resource/asthma-myths-coughing-part-and-parcel-asthma

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


Tackling Air Pollution At School

The 4th Ask: what is the impact of air quality on your lung health?

TAPAS stands for Tackling Air Pollution At School and we are a network of experts working together to better understand the air quality inside and around our schools. Atmospheric pollution in the UK is responsible for approximately 40,000 early deaths and has a cost of around £20 billion to health services and business, per year1. Children are particularly susceptible to air pollution and dirty air has been linked to rises in child asthma GP visits.

But why are young children more vulnerable to air pollution? Children take in a larger amount of air per unit of body weight compared with adults so when this air is toxic it can have more damaging effects on their still developing immune systems and lungs2. The impact from this dirty, toxic air can ripple into other critical aspects of their lives such as needing more doctor visits, being hospitalised, missing days off school and generally affecting their well-being negatively.

Our TAPAS colleagues at Global Action Plan estimate that in the UK 3.4 million children learn in an unhealthy environment. Air quality is an environmental challenge that requires a collaborative effort from multiple disciplines and sectors and the TAPAS Network is one of several networks in the UK that are tackling this challenge.

3.4 million children learn in an unhealthy environment

TAPAS is one of six Clean Air Networks funded by the Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund ‘Clean Air Programme’. The aim of the Clean Air programme is to bring together the UK’s world-class research base and support high-quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation to develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges, in order to protect health and support clean growth. As a group of networks, we are working together to maximise the benefit to the air quality community.

Our work at TAPAS is broken down into four in-depth content areas relating to schools and air quality:

  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Understanding the solutions
  3. Prioritising the solutions and,
  4. 4) Dissemination and outreach. We host regular meetings and hold workshops on topics of interest with expert speakers.

To change the conversation on air pollution we believe it is essential to engage directly with children, schools and parents. Our team includes education and citizen science specialists who will help us to effectively build schools outreach into our work programme. A new project we are involved with is called SAMHE (Schools’ Air quality Monitoring for Health and Education, pronounced ‘Sammy’). This project is supported by the Department for Education and will help us understand indoor air quality in UK schools. SAMHE is important because poor air quality can have impacts on pupils’ concentration levels and their health, affecting both attendance and attainment. SAMHE also gives pupils the opportunity to be citizen scientists and do hands-on experiments with their monitors. If you would like to learn more about the project and how your school could get involved click here.

CoSchools is another project led by TAPAS researchers which was developed as part of the CO-TRACE project. CO-TRACE is an EPSRC funded project involving researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of Surrey and Imperial College London. To assist with the UK government’s rollout of CO2 monitors to schools, CoSchools developed four videos, and other materials, that aim to explain how CO2 monitors can help teachers manage their classroom ventilation to provide a more comfortable and healthier learning environment. A PowerPoint presentation has also been developed for schools to download for free and use with staff, to help explain why CO2 monitors continue to be important, even after the pandemic. Maintaining low levels of CO2 in your schools may help improve children’s learning and concentration.

We are also funding three small and innovative research projects that support our ambition to develop the research base to design and operate healthy schools in the environment of the future. Each project focuses on the overarching question “How can we deliver timely and effective interventions to improve air quality at school?”.

TAPAS is funded until September 2023 but what will our legacy look like once the project comes to an end? We hope to build a central repository of research-based evidence and resources for schools, students and parents to use, to make it easy for them to get the help they require to empower their schools and pupils. We also hope to get air pollution onto the curriculum to educate the next generation and raise awareness of the impacts of air pollution on children, which can be linked not only to asthma but also to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, dementia, obesity and cancer2.

Every summer, Global Action Plan runs a Clean Air Day event which is gaining momentum year on year and 2023 will no doubt be even bigger. But you don’t have to wait for next year to get involved – Clean Air Day should be everyday! Download school resources now for activity sheets, informative posters and campaigning tips to help educate on air pollution and have some fun. Global Action Plan have also developed a Clean Air for Schools Programme which is a free, practical online tool for schools to create a tailored clean air action plan to tackle air pollution in and around the school. They have also developed a ‘Knowledge hub for health’ which is a great resource for information on clean air for health professionals, linking air pollution to asthma plans.

Another group linked to TAPAS is the Clean School Air not-for-profit campaigning and resources group which helps parents and schools who want to improve air quality for their children. They have guidance and practical interventions for parents and teachers to improve air quality and reduce pollution in their children’s schools.

Top tips for reducing your exposure to air pollution

  • Keep yourself updated on high pollution alerts and notifications
  • When air pollution is especially severe, try to avoid strenuous activity, and minimize playing or exercising in the harmful air.
  • If possible, walk, cycle, or scoot to school and avoid busy roads where possible.
  • Reduce time spent in areas where pollution is high, such as near or around areas of severe traffic congestion or sources of industrial pollution. Where possible, travel during times of day when air pollution is lower which can help reduce exposure.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation when cooking to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • Limit any wood burning stoves in the home as the tiny particle pollution can enter the bloodstream and be extremely hazardous to health3.

 

TAPAS welcomes any new members who are interested in working towards better environments for our children at school. Members of TAPAS are welcome to join any of our focus group activities or to work with us directly on bespoke research. If you would like to join TAPAS to receive our newsletters please click here or email the TAPAS Network Manager, Kat Roberts at kr526@cam.ac.uk.

By Kat Roberts (Network Manager, TAPAS Network, University of Cambridge)

 

References

  1. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution
  2. https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/press-releases/glo-media-Danger_in_the_Air.pdf
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/16/home-wood-burning-biggest-cause-particle-pollution-fires

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.


Making the invisible visible – where health meets housing

Did you know that the average person spends 90% of their lifetime indoors? If you are 40 years old, that’s a massive 36 years. We spend so much time indoors that we should be called the indoor generation!

Sure, there are lots of studies, evidence and awareness of what contributes to outdoor pollution and how it is harmful to health, but have you ever considered the quality of the air that you breathe indoors? Outdoor air pollution does not bounce off the front door, and there can also be significant sources of indoor air pollution. This all means that indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor.

To address this, Torus Foundation and our Healthy Neighbours Project Hubs have teamed up with the Beyond Transformation Programme, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC NWC) Equitable Place Based Health and Care team and Airthings to install indoor air quality monitors in the homes of eligible residents of leading North West social housing provider, Torus, across Liverpool, St Helens and Warrington.

The aim of our campaign is to use the indoor air quality monitors to get a better picture of the home environment, identify any structural causes of poor indoor air quality, and to empower households to make changes to improve their surroundings.

A prerequisite of having an indoor air quality monitor installed is for the household to have a child / children under the age of 5. We are focusing on these households because children are especially susceptible to poor air quality, with respiratory illnesses accounting for the majority of infections in children of this age group. Research shows 96% of homes have at least one type of indoor air quality issue ranging from excessive dust, high humidity, or emissions from cleaning products, and/or building materials.

The data collected in the home is visible on a customisable screen and the tenant can choose to display the insights that matter to them. There is a colour-coded indicator which shows overall air quality good, fair or poor using a RAG rating. A QR code is generated and given to each household so tenants can see their data any time, anywhere.

The project group have access to an online dashboard. This allows overall access to each device where reports can be generated and shows a breakdown of data. Alongside this data, we are having regular conversations with tenants to ask about what changes they are making, and volunteers from the Foundation’s Healthy Neighbours Project are sharing hints and tips to improve the quality of the air.

Extraction from building ‘M’ for humidity:

 

Extraction from building ‘M’ for temperature:

In homes where the indoor air quality monitors have been installed, informal feedback from many participants has shown that changes are being made already. Extractor fans are being used, there is a reduction in misuse of cleaning products and fewer candles are being burned, alongside improved ventilation of the homes.

So, what’s your next move? Join the conversation, join the movement, and let’s improve indoor air quality together #ICareAboutMyIndoorAir

If you would like further information about the Air Quality Monitoring Project, contact Torus Foundation via info@torusfoundation.org.uk.

 

By Melanie Pilling, Torus Foundation and Douglas Booker, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration

Visit the #AskAboutAsthma 2022 campaign page for more content.