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School children learn about respiratory health from the experts for World COPD day - By Researcher Emma Ray

15 November 2017

For WORLD COPD day the NIHR CLAHRC Wessex Respiratory research team , in collaboration with patient and publicI representatives, respiratory teams from Southern Health and Solent NHS Trust, the school nursing team and scientists from the University of Southampton, organised an event hosted at a local secondary school with year 7 students.  The aim of the session was to promote awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, whilst focussing on preventing smoking uptake in children, who are our potential patients of the future.

The event started with Dr Lucy Rigge providing an engaging presentation on the causes and effects of COPD, which included an informal discussion with one of our PPI representatives on his experience of living with the disease, which led to the students asking lots of pertinent questions.

Students then moved on to complete some hands-on activities where they were able to view the structure of healthy and diseased lung tissue through microscopes, under the supervision of the scientists, leading to discussion on the direct damage that smoking causes to the airways.   The respiratory physiotherapists led a mini pulmonary rehabilitation session that focussed on the effect of smoking on exercise tolerance and the essential role of exercise in COPD.   Apps on ipads loaned by the lifelab at Southampton General, enabled students to visualise the respiratory system and also to better understand how smoking can affect the skin and appearance in the long term.   Southampton Healthy Living also loaned equipment which was used to demonstrate the many hazardous chemicals contained in tobacco smoke, and the social and physical impacts of smoking.   Valuable discussions on peer pressure to start smoking and potential strategies to deal with this led to really insightful ideas from students. 

The event was well received by staff at the school and the students were interested and engaged.  We are looking forward to returning to the school in 2 weeks time to conduct a second session with the remainder of year 7.  We are also supporting events organised by the Southern Health team at Sparsholt and Brockenhurst College this week.

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Why do we need evidence? At a time when the NHS has limited resources and increases in demand for its services, it seems prudent to only make changes to the service once you are reasonably certain that what you might do may be in the interest of the patients and staff in the system. By enforcing top-down changes to services with little or no evidence of benefit to patients or staff we are using more of this precious resource for no clear benefit. As an engineer coming into the healthcare sector several years ago to do data analytics, it has always surprised me how few decisions in the management of NHS services are made with robust quantitative analysis. It is also a contrast to the evidence based decision making and protocols within medicine. My thought for you: “why can’t we have evidence based service management as well as evidence based medicine?“ read blog >

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