Meeting News

Didactic sessions enhance school personnel's food allergy knowledge

ATLANTA — A didactic educational session led to a significant improvement in how much private school employees knew about food allergies, regardless of their education level and whether they were a parent, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

“Six to eight percent of children have food allergies, and 28% of anaphylaxis-related fatalities occur in school,” Maya Gharfeh, MD, pediatrics, allergy and immunology, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues wrote. “School personnel should be educated for recognition and treatment of food allergy-related reactions and anaphylaxis.”

Maya Gharfeh
Maya Gharfeh

Gharfeh and colleagues conducted a two-arm cohort study consisting of two control private schools, which included 73 participants, and four intervention private schools, which included 302 participants. Those at the intervention schools were administered a validated survey based on the Chicago Food Allergy Research Survey both before and after a 1-hour didactic educational session, while those at the control schools completed the same two surveys at two dates, separated by more than 1 month, but without the didactic session. 

According to previously published research, the Chicago Food Allergy Research Survey was a first of its kind tool to assess food allergy knowledge and perceptions among the general public, physicians and parents by asking a series of true/false/I don’t know, multiple choice and Likert scale questions. These questions can vary depending on the group being surveyed and cover topics such as risk factors, age groups most likely to have food allergies, the availability of medicines to prevent food allergy reactions and how often patients with food allergies are referred to a subspecialist.

In the current study, Gharfeh and colleagues used a linear mixed effects model to conduct a statistical analysis and found that among the intervention schools, knowledge score increased by 19.8% (P < .001) compared with 1.9% (P = .252) in the control group.,= In the intervention schools, parents’ scores increased by 18.4% and non-parents’ scores increased by 20.5%, while those with 4 years of college education in the intervention group had the greatest percentage change (21.8%, P < .001). The researchers also noted that score changes did not vary significantly between the intervention and control groups based on whether the person was a parent (P = .987) or the respondent’s education level (P = .0909).

Gharfeh told Healio Family Medicine that education is critical to spreading the word about food allergies, and explained the role clinicians can play in doing so.

“Primary care physicians can encourage their patients’ families to speak up at their children’s schools to promote further education to all school personnel on key concepts in food allergy and recognition of life-threatening allergic reactions,” she said. “The more school personnel we can educate on food allergy and food allergy-related reactions, the better prepared they will be to safely recognize and handle a life-threatening reaction at school.” – by Janel Miller


Gharfeh M, et al. Abstract 617. Presented at: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting; March 3-6, 2017; Atlanta.

Gupta RS, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. doi:2009:10.1186/1472-6963-9-142.

Disclosure: Gharfeh reports no relevant disclosures. Healio Family Medicine was unable to confirm the other researchers’ disclosures prior to publication. 

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