Project Information


Fifteen percent of children have asthma.

A child visits the emergency department
every 34 minutes.
One is admitted to hospital every 6 hours.

Asthma and severe allergies impose major burdens on children and youth thorough physical health problems, psychosocial concerns, medication costs, missed school, and poor quality of life, and on society by contributing significantly to health care costs.

The Purpose (Mission)

  • Provide sustainable online support to children (7-11) and youth (12-15) 
  • Increase a feeling of belonging by provide children and youth with asthma and allergies to meet on a weekly basis and talk about managing their asthma/allergies.
  • Boost self confidence in children and youth in dealing with others when talking about their medicine, situation, and health concerns.
  • Enhance social networks. 
  • Expand a previously successful study
  • Partner with service providers and decision makers to create sustainable online support services.

Who is involved

  • 60 children (7-11) and youth (12-15) with asthma
  • 60 children (7-11) and youth (12-15) with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis
  • 10 Peer Mentors (16-22)
  • 2 Health Support & Education Specialists
  • Advisory Board consisting of: Anaphylaxis Canada, the Asthma Society of Canada, the Alberta Asthma Society, the University of Alberta Social Supports Research Program.
  • Partners: other interested health care organizations and professionals, government department, policy makers, planners, managers. 

This is how all partner organizations will gain.

Having successfully launched a pilot project with 30 children, 7-12, from across Canada with asthma and serve allergies at risk of anaphylaxis, we are expanding our project.

The first step is to adopt the knowledge, starting with this successful pilot study. The second step is to adapt the knowledge: to expand upon what was learned. For Sustainable Online Support we are adapting the knowledge by integrating feedback from the Health Support & Education Specialist, the Peer Mentors, the parents and participants in the pilot study. We are expanding participant groups in two ways:

  1. creating groups by age
    • children 7-11
    • youth 12-15
  2. increasing the number of participants from 30 to 60
  3. creating 4 new groups: 30 participants per group 
    • children with asthma,
    • youth with asthma,
    • children with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis, and
    • youth with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis.

The final stage of Knowledge Transfer is uptake. For this project the uptake is integrated early in the study by building strong relationships not only with our end users, Anaphylaxis Canada and the Asthma Society of Canada, but also by inviting knowledge users and policy influencers to join our Advisory Committee and to attend our National Symposium January 25, 2013. This final stage is in the transfer of knowledge to parents and children and youth with asthma and severe allergies, organizations, health professionals and educators.  

How it Works

Phase One (May-September 2012)

During Phase One of Sustainable Online Support, the Social Supports Research Program at the University of Alberta in conjunction with partners from Anaphylaxis Canada and the Asthma Society of Canada' in addition to other partners, adopt the KT Tool Kit developed during the pilot study. This Tool Kit contains:
  • Peer Mentor Training Handbook
  • 2 Peer Mentor Training Sessions
  • 8 Sustainable Online Support group sessions with accompanying Mission Books
  • 2 Parent Networking Sessions
Supporting documents include feedback from the developer, the Heath Care Support and Education Specialist, Peer Mentors, parents and participants. 

Together these resources will be adopted and adapted for the four groups in the new study:

  • children with asthma,
  • youth with asthma,
  • children with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis, and
  • youth with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis

Also at this time recruitment begins of both Peer Mentors (16-22) and participant (7-15). Interviews and training sessions follow.

Phase Two (September-November 2012)

The Sustainable Online Support sessions run once a week for eight weeks, from mid September to mid November. During these sessions participants find support, learn how to manage their asthma and allergies while interacting online. In addition to support,   fun and games is what Sustainable Online Support offers.

Sessions are led by Peer Mentors, who have learned to manage their own condition. In Partnership with a Health Support & Education Specialists, Peer Mentors encourage participants in support seeking. Finding others, especially role models, like them participants feel more confident about managing their conditions: whether it be asthma or severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis.

Phase Three (November 2012-February 2013)

Interviews follow the close of the Sustainable Online Support as The Social Support Research Program, Anaphylaxis Canada and the Asthma Society of Canada evaluate the success of the project. Number crunching and report writing follows culminating in the National Symposium Friday, January 25, 2013.

Children and Youth

Before the Sustainable Online Support sessions begin, we will be contacting each participant to: assess social support and determine quality of life.

Four support groups will be created: children with asthma, children with severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis, youth with asthma and youth with
severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis.

For two months, from mid-September to mid-November , each group will meet once a week, online, with their Peer Mentor.

Peer Mentors, in partnership with a Health Support & Education Specialist, will then provide a fun and innovative way to find support. Depending on the group, this support would be in managing either asthma or severe allergies.

At the end of the sessions the children and youth will be asked what they thought about the support and how it helped them, individually, to manage managing their asthma or severe allergies.

All participants will get a gift certificate for each portion of the study complete. 


Peer Mentors

Having experience as a Peer Mentor and experience with asthma or allergies, and having completed training on facilitation, working with parents and group dynamics, Peer Mentors work in partnership with a Health Support & Education Specialist to deliver the Sustainable Online Support sessions. 

Where the specialist are present, their main purpose is to provide requested information to the participants and support to the Peer Mentors. 

Peer Mentors will help youth with asthma or life threatening allergies by facilitating this weekly online support session, for eight weeks. As requested by the Peer Mentors, to ensure rich experiences, siblings will be placed in different groups.

Feedback from the Peer Mentors provides additional knowledge, information and experience to be adopted and adapted sustainably.

Training includes online training sessions before the  Sustainable Online Support sessions. Training also includes half an hour before each session, and half an hour debriefing after each session. 



The social support needs of parents of children and youth with asthma and severe allergies are different from the needs of their children. In conjunction with the Sustainable Online Support sessions, two networking session, led by a Health Support & Education Specialist in the field of either asthma or severe allergies, will be made available for parents to learn about support resources and coping skills from other parents. 

It will be up to individual families to determine whether or not parents attend sessions with their children.  Where this can be helpful for some children, it can discourage the participation of others.

Parents will also be interviewed about the impact of Sustainable Online Support in the lives of their children.  


Health Support & Education Specialist

Chosen specifically for this role by the Asthma Society of Canada and Anaphylaxis Canada, the Health Support & Education Specialists play a significant role in:
  • providing training to the Peer Mentors,
  • partnering with the Peer Mentors during the Sustainable Online Support, and
  • facilitating the 2 parent networking sessions.


In order to transfer knowledge from theory to practice, we need strong relationships with people who are involved in making life better for children and youth with asthma and severe allergies at risk of anaphylaxis. Our partners include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Health Professionals including physicians, nurses etc. 
  • Asthma Educators,
  • Policy Influencers,
  • Service Providers,
  • Program Planners,
  • Health Care Managers, and
  • members of the public.

Partners can be involved in two different ways: as members of our Advisory Committee or as attendees of our National Symposium Friday, January 25, 2013.

Special Considerations

  1. Peer Mentors requested that to ensure rich experiences for all participants, siblings be placed in different groups. 
  2. Using online sites, such as club Penguin, created environments and scenarios for the application of what was covered during the sessions. For example in considering food allergies, participants went to the restaurant to consider what each participant could or could not eat. At another time participants looked at the activities to determine which might be an asthma trigger. At other times, connecting with other children and teens managing asthma and anaphylaxis through play was a bonding and healing experience.  
  3. Both participants, parents and Peer Mentors will receive handbooks. Taking time to review and engage with the material is fundamental to a successful experience. 
Subpages (1): Publications