Asthma is the most common chronic condition affecting Aboriginal youth aged 8 to 12 years in Canada. Research investigating psychosocial challenges associated with asthma is limited. This study examines support resources, support-seeking strategies, support and education needs, and intervention preferences of Aboriginal youth with asthma and their caregivers in an effort to encourage community-wide, health-promoting behaviors.
We employed a community-based participatory research design to conduct interviews with 21 youths aged 8 to 12 years and 17 caregivers from 5 Mi'kmaq communities in Unama'ki (Cape Breton) Nova Scotia, Canada. After conducting interviews that explored existing and desired social, educational, and health support in participating communities, we held a 2-day asthma camp to engage participants in asthma education, social support networking, and cultural activities. At the camp, we collected data through participant observation, sharing circles, focus groups, and youth drawings of their experiences living with asthma.
Our study yielded 4 key findings: 1) asthma triggers included household mold, indoor smoking, pets, season change, strenuous exercise, extreme cold, and humidity; 2) social and educational support is lacking in Mi'kmaq communities despite a strong desire for these services; 3) cultural, linguistic, and geographic barriers to accessing support exist; and 4) family members are primary support resources.
Improved support and educational resources are needed to foster effective Mi'kmaq asthma support networks. Future asthma interventions for marginalized populations must be culturally meaningful and linguistically accessible to those using and providing asthma support.