Dr Rahul Chodhari and pupilsA joint project between the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, University College London (UCL) and the charity Asthma UK is seeing medical students become the teachers in an effort to boost asthma awareness among young children.

“Speak up for asthma” sees specially trained UCL medical students sent into local primary schools to deliver interactive sessions to pupils aged between seven and 11 on the symptoms of asthma and causes and treatment of asthma attacks.

In January Hasmonean Primary School in Hendon became one of the latest beneficiaries of the scheme when it was visited by first year medics Fabianne Viner and Nick Cox and fourth year students Jessica Kearney and James Cohen.

As well as raising awareness of asthma among children, the project gives the medical students their first experience of being quizzed on their health knowledge by members of the public.

After delivering her first presentation to a year 3 class Fabianne said: “I really enjoyed interacting with the pupils and answering their questions. Medicine is all about thinking on the spot and you have to do that in the classroom.”

“Also we are giving them a really important message and hopefully providing them with a better awareness of asthma.”

Around one in 11 children in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma, while an estimated 75% of hospital admissions for asthma are believed to be avoidable.

Pupils participate in Dr Rahul Chodhari, consultant paediatrician at the Royal Free London and “Speak up for Asthma” project lead, said it was important to make all children aware of the causes and symptoms of asthma attacks as early as possible, but also to ease fears surrounding the condition.

He said: “We want this to be a fun, interactive session that children enjoy and can take away the understanding that asthma doesn’t have to be a frightening thing. It is a very manageable condition and it shouldn’t stop children living a normal life.”

Dr Chodhari added increasing awareness of asthma would lead to a boost in its diagnosis in the local community.

He said: “By recognising the symptoms children will be able to tell their teachers and parents if they suspect they have asthma.”

Daniel Gastwirth, deputy headteacher at Hasmoneon Primary School, said: “The children were all engaged and participated well, largely down to the team holding their interest. They were able to tailor their talk to the children's level and were able to answer questions in a child friendly way.

“Several children at school have inhalers and the children enjoyed learning more about these and other aspects of living with asthma.”

In December 2014 the programme received £2,850 through the Regional Innovation Fund, allowing it to expand its reach by doubling the number of medical students being trained and primary schools involved in the project.

Images: Top right – Dr Rahul Chodhari and pupils. Bottom right – pupils participate in "speak up for asthma" sessions.

Further images available in our gallery.


Notes to editors

Media contacts: daniel.obrien1@nhs.net.

About the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free began as a pioneering organisation and continues to play a leading role in the care of patients. Our mission is to provide world class expertise and local care. In the 21st century, the Royal Free London continues to lead improvements in healthcare. 

The Royal Free London attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver, kidney and bone marrow transplantation, haemophilia, renal, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and we are a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.

In July 2014 Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital became part of the Royal Free London.