Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life

Allergy Study

The Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of Strategies to Promote the Well-Being of Children and Youth with Allergies and/or Asthma

Summary of the Project

The AllerGen mission is to reduce the morbidity, mortality and socio-economic impact of allergic and related immune disease by undertaking and applying innovative, multidisciplinary research on the development, persistence, prevention and treatment of the allergic state. As such, the social sciences play a crucial role, as underscored recently by the National Institutes of Health (2004) in their document: Progress and Promise in Research on Social and Cultural Dimensions of Health: A Research Agenda.

The social sciences are essential to society’s quest to promote health, prevent disease, and provide quality treatment and services. They provide knowledge about the social, cultural and economic environments that influence human health and behavior, and the processes through which these environments exert their influence. They address critical issues in the prevention and treatment of disease and poor health, as well as social, economic and cultural factors in the delivery of health services that have an impact on health outcomes.

The focus is on the well-being and quality of life of children and youth with allergies (particularly food allergy) and/or asthma, as well as their related communities (i.e., care givers, teachers, friends and extended family members). While this proposed program of research is a series of projects organized around two themes, there is a common thread that runs through these initiatives and that is capacity building. Very simply, in health promotion language, capacity is often defined as having the tools in your tool box to live a healthy life, effect change, cope in a positive manner, etc. Our goal is to study particular aspects of capacity building for children and youth with allergies and/or asthma in order to provide them with the tools they need to enhance well-being and quality of life.

The first project (Theme A) entails an examination of the regulated versus the legislated environment in the context of anaphylaxis. Here, the foundational question is: can we legislate quality of life? A comparison of the Ontario environment (now operating under Sabrina’s Law) and the Alberta environment (a series of school-based policies) as well as Quebec (school-based policies supported by trained public health nurses) will allow the research team to assess the relative contribution of policy context to health outcome (i.e., adverse events; well-being; quality of life). The second project (Theme B, project 1) builds on existing health promotion initiatives (e.g., the Roaring Adventures of Puff) to design and evaluate a peer support system for children and youth with allergies and/or asthma. There is a strong emphasis here on the role of social support, particularly as younger children reach their teen years, a time when risk taking behaviour in general becomes more commonplace. The third project (Theme B, project 2) further develops capacity through an evaluation of food labeling practices in the Canadian context. Anecdotal evidence tells us that the various ways in which foods are labeled for allergens often confuses and misdirects the allergic consumer and their related communities, potentially leading to difficult health outcomes and unfavourably impacting their well-being and quality of life. Allergic consumers and those purchasing and preparing their foods will be surveyed in order to understand the source(s) of confusion, elicit feedback on appropriate labeling practices, and inform Health Canada re: policies around food labeling.

Members of the Team

Principal Investigators:

  • A. Clark
  • L. Cicutto

Co-Investigators:

  • C. Dufresne
  • L. Harada
  • S. McGhan
  • T. Vanderleek
  • S. Wat
  • M. Stewart
  • J. Masuda
  • N. Letourneau
  • S. Moisey
  • B. Schellenberg
  • M. Lewis Allen
  • M. Allen
  • S. Sheth