Asthma app closes the language gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families


By Mardi Chapman

24 Jun 2020

Asthma education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and health practitioners in northern and central Australia is closing the language gap.

A new interactive app, produced by the Menzies School of Health Research’s Child Health Division, displays in English but with voice over in seven Indigenous languages.

They are Tiwi, Murrinh Patha, Yolngu Matha, Kriol, Pitjantjatjara, Western Arrernte and Warlpiri.

Menzies senior research fellow and project lead Dr Gabrielle McCallum said in a statement that the asthma app was an innovative way to help people access important information about asthma in their home and at their own pace.

“The team evaluated the app with 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers from the Northern Territory and Queensland and found that knowledge of asthma significantly improved after using the asthma app, particularly how asthma is treated and the steps in first aid,” she said.

“Health care professionals also described the app as an innovative and effective method of providing asthma education to culturally and linguistically diverse groups.”

Given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to die from asthma and have poorer outcomes than other Australians, culturally appropriate health education is important to reduce language and context barriers to health equity.

Larrakia Elder and Chair of the Menzies Child Health Indigenous Reference Group, Aunty Bilawara Lee says the app is even more important for families during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Getting information about how to keep asthma in check out to community is very important right now. The threat of coronavirus means that good lung health is critical in preventing a disaster from happening,” she said.

Funding for the development of the app was provided by Asthma Australia, The Centre for Research Excellence in Respiratory Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, and Queensland Health.

The asthma module is the first in a suite of respiratory health education which will include bronchiolitis, pneumonia and chronic suppurative lung disease/bronchiectasis.

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