The Learning Rocket Takes Off at Trillium Health Centre


Taking a breath shouldn’t be difficult. Yet, the number of children with asthma is rising in Canada. According to statistics, ten percent of children between the ages of four and 19 have asthma. In Peel Region, hospitalization rates are declining, but more than 1,200 children are hospitalized a year with asthma related symptoms.

The key to keeping asthma under control and thus preventing flare-ups and decreasing hospitalizations is prevention. When children and their families are educated on how to be proactive in the management of asthma, their need for hospitalization dramatically decreases.

Trillium Health Centre’s Learning Rocket, the first education kiosk of its kind in healthcare, is a self-learning centre on wheels with a rocket ship theme. The rocket contains a computer with a joy stick; internet sites with information and interactive games on asthma; videos on asthma; and teaching materials. Children who use the Rocket gain information on medications, environmental triggers, and asthma and sports. They also learn to identify personal triggers and learn about personal action plans for recognizing early warning signs, and developing individualized monitoring techniques.

The rocket is targeted to all children. Children under the age of six need parental assistance while older children can use the Rocket on their own, learning at their own pace. Group learning is also possible with the Rocket and it is wheelchair accessible.

“We have two Rockets,” says Sandy Haist, Asthma Education Coordinator at Trillium. “One is housed in the Paediatric inpatient unit and the other travels from the Asthma Education Centre to wherever there is need such as the Kid’z Klinic and the Emergency Care Centre. Children are able to take advantage of the wait time and learn valuable information on asthma management.”

“The Rocket will hopefully help our younger asthma patients and their families manage their condition and avoid triggers,” continues Haist. “It’s a fun, portable learning system and we can keep adding tools that we need.”

“Every asthmatic patient that comes in our door receives asthma care and education, but contact time between nurses and patients is limited in Emergency,” says Jo-Anne Oake-Vecchiato, Director, Women’s and Children Health System. “The Rocket augments nursing teaching time and improves patient outcomes.”

Children with asthma are leading a much lower quality of life due to poor asthma management techniques. A vicious cycle of recurring attacks of breathlessness accompanied by wheezing, chest tightness and coughing leading to physician and hospital visits, and absenteeism from school mark their condition.

It is hoped that the Learning Rocket will provide our young asthma patients with the information and tools they need to take control of their condition. With an action plan and the proper use of inhalers/devices and medications, flare-ups and hospitalizations can be a thing of the past for paediatric asthma patients.

The Learning Rocket will be expanded in the near future to include other conditions common in children such as diabetes and allergy management.

The Rocket was made possible with the generous support of the Ronald MacDonald Charities of Canada.