Asthma education goes online to fight health inequity

A new free online tool to teach primary school children about asthma has been launched by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

One in seven Kiwi children live with asthma, and one of ARFNZ’s missions is to provide these children with the tools and resources they need to manage their asthma well and live life to the full. Its launch of the Sailor Digital Classroom this month means children can find out about what asthma is, asthma triggers, how to treat asthma, and what to do in an asthma emergency, alongside Sailor the Pufferfish and his friend Jelly.

“The Sailor Digital Classroom is an amazing tool because it uses a different platform to open up access to asthma education, delivering the key educational elements of the ‘live’ Sailor the Pufferfish show, to every primary school in New Zealand,” says Joanna Turner, Research and Education Manager at ARFNZ.

“We have removed the geographical and financial barriers that exist with delivering a live show. While the Digital Classroom will not replace our Sailor live show, it will mean that schools can receive asthma education faster, and regardless of COVID alert levels, which have seriously impacted our ability to deliver shows.

“We can also engage with more children in schools throughout New Zealand than ever before, particularly those in rural communities, and schools who have hosted a live show can easily update their asthma knowledge by completing the digital classroom refresher.”

Schools can register their interest on the website The Foundation grants the school access to ‘unlock’ the classroom to begin learning. Schools get access to the digital classroom for up to one month, and it can be viewed multiple times. Once successfully completed, the class receives a certificate of achievement to display on their classroom wall.

We hope that many schools will take up this brilliant free opportunity to get asthma educated, and that the children enjoy joining Sailor and Jelly on the journey to becoming ‘Asthma Aware’,” says ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding.

“Since 2015, the Foundation has educated over 77,000 children in 490 primary schools throughout New Zealand. Asthma education plays a big role in reducing asthma-related hospitalisations. People may also be surprised to hear that the Foundation receives no government or Ministry of Health support to educate on asthma; we do it solely through generous community grants and our family of donors.”

Dr David McNamara is a Respiratory Paediatrician at Starship Hospital and a member of ARFNZ’s Scientific Advisory Board. He says, “The Sailor Digital Classroom offers a really simple, appealing and fun way for children to learn about asthma alongside their teachers. This is not only beneficial for the one in seven children who have asthma, but also for their friends and whānau, so they know how support a child with asthma and what to do in an asthma emergency.”

ARFNZ is aiming to translate the Digital Classroom into te reo to reach Māori medium schools and kura too.

To find out more and register for the Sailor Digital Classroom, visit

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