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New UF study uses mobile technology to help teens with asthma manage disease


Written By: Jill Pease

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Adolescence is a critical period for kids with asthma to transition to self-care, and that process is not always a smooth one. University of Florida researchers are launching a new study to assist young teenagers in managing their illness, with help from a device that rarely leaves teens’ sides: smartphones.

UF’s Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents and their parents or caregivers identify asthma management goals, develop behavioral strategies to meet those goals and strengthen communication skills between kids and parents. The study targets adolescents with asthma between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents.

“The reason we picked this age range is this is an age when parents look to teenagers to take more responsibility for their care, but sometimes kids aren’t interested in doing that yet, they aren’t prepared, or they don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that increased responsibility, even though they may want to,” said David Fedele, Ph.D., the study’s lead investigator and an assistant professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Team Speak is one of the first mobile health interventions to target health maintenance in early adolescence. In the first stage of the project, an advisory board of 10 pairs of teens and parents will evaluate the Team Speak mobile application and provide feedback to developers. In the second phase, researchers will test Team Speak in a larger group of participant pairs. After one week of real-time data gathering via smartphone, Team Speak offers suggestions for individualized asthma management goals, such as noticing signs of asthma episodes or carrying quick relief medications. Over a four-month period, the program supports families in meeting their goals through skills training and tips for problem-solving communications.

“One of the things I’m most excited about with Team Speak is that it tailors interventions to individual families,” Fedele said. “Data from a small chunk of time inform the families’ next steps for asthma management. Those goals will change and may change a lot over the course of the study. Team Speak is a tailored and dynamic tool designed to empower early adolescents as they develop and master asthma self-management skills.”

The UF Team Speak study is available to adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 who have asthma and their parent or legal guardian. Compensation is provided to families for transportation and participation. For more information or to find out whether you are eligible, please call the UF Youth Asthma Research Lab at 352-273-5124.

Team Speak is supported by a $275,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R21HD083830-01A1.

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