University of Texas at Austin nursing researcher receives $1.5 million for asthma study

AUSTIN, Texas—A $1.5 million federal grant to evaluate the effectiveness of an asthma health education program for parents and their school-age children has been awarded to a University of Texas at Austin researcher in the School of Nursing.

Since 1985, asthma has increased 84 percent among children 5-14 years of age, and now affects 4.8 million under the age of 18, said Dr. Sharon Horner, associate professor of nursing and lead investigator for the study. A specialist in families with children who have chronic illnesses, Horner hopes the research project will improve the way families manage the disease.

The four-year study, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health, is titled “Asthma in Central Texas Project.”

Horner is particularly interested in rural families because there is a greater prevalence of chronic illnesses, lower education levels and poverty in these areas “all of which contribute to rural families having more problems with asthma management,” she said. The researchers will look at a sample of 276 Mexican American, African American and Anglo American rural school-aged children (8-11) years who have asthma and their parents.

“Most of the information on childhood asthma has come from studies conducted in urban centers,” said Horner. “Yet, the lack of available, qualified health care providers, hospital closures and lack of urgent care services are extreme in rural areas.

“Thus, most families travel a fair distance to receive good health care and when a child has worsening asthma symptoms, the distance a family travels for health care just increases the risk of a negative outcome.”

The purpose of the study, which will involve both parents and children, is to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of an asthma education program in improving child health outcomes (doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, absenteeism, quality of life).
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of an asthma education program in improving parents’ asthma knowledge and management behaviors, self-efficacy and perceptions of access to care, and children’s asthma knowledge, asthma management, metered dose inhaler technique, self-efficacy and coping.
  • Explore the effects of background variables (socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, knowledge, self-efficacy, asthma severity, school) and other factors (access to care, coping, asthma management behaviors, metered dose inhaler technique) on health outcomes.

For more information about the study, contact Horner at 512-471-7951 or e-mail

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, 512-471-6504.