Iggy and The Inhalers is an asthma education project created by cartoonist and board-certified pediatric allergist Alex Thomas MD.
Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization in children, with 36,000 children missing school every day due to asthma. The challenges with asthma are numerous, including problems with medication use and deficits in education regarding asthma diagnosis and management (EPR-3 2007). Alex Thomas, MD, initiated Iggy and The Inhalers project during his pediatric residency and allergy fellowship at UW Madison. Realizing that nurses and doctors had very little time to provide kids instruction about asthma, Dr. Thomas wanted to help kids learn about their medications and how to control their asthma. For inspiration, Alex revisited some characters he had created as an 11-year-old comics fan and as a child with asthma.
Iggy and The Inhalers teaches kids with asthma about asthma symptoms, asthma treatment, and asthma medications using comics, videos, and more! Iggy and the Inhalers uses the language of comics (i.e., repeated images, spatial connections, self-paced reading), which allows newly-diagnosed pediatric asthma patients of different health literacy levels to understand the basics of asthma pathophysiology, signs, symptoms, medication-use, and triggers. The project imitates the multi-format narrative used by popular children’s entertainment. These collectable cards and comics aim to extend learning beyond the brief period of one-on-one instruction in the clinic setting, to a more lasting, intuitive understanding of asthma management.
Are patients learning?
For the past four years, Iggy and The Inhalers has been implemented at Madison Asthma Camp. With lots of positive feedback from the young asthma patients, Booster Shot continues to refine the materials. Pre- and Post-Tests with kidsindicate increased knowledge, especially about the difference between rescue and control medications – the chief learning objective of Iggy and The Inhalers. Most importantly, kids are enthusiastically engaging with the material, even creating their own Pokemon-style games with the trading cards. More research is underway at UW Health to evaluate the effectiveness of the materials.