The development and comprehensibility of a pictorial asthma action plan

01 Jan 2009
Respiratory conditions
  • Asthma
Respiratory topics
  • Disease management
Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Roberts NJ, Mohamed Z, Wong PS, Johnson M, Loh LC, Partridge MR


Written action plans are regarded as an important part of asthma self-management education and yet they may not be understood by those with limited literacy skills. This study was designed to produce an understandable pictorial asthma action plan.


With advice from a group of doctors and nurses a "standard" written action plan was translated by a medical artist into a series of pictorial images. These were assessed using the techniques of guessability and translucency by a series of adults attending a specialist asthma clinic in London and the same process was subsequently used to assess comprehensibility of the images and plans amongst a group of Somalis living in Manchester, UK and Malaysians in Seremban, Malaysia.


Guessability testing showed that the majority of pictograms were well understood by each of the study groups. Translucency testing revealed close agreement with intended meaning for the majority of the images. One image, depicting extra use of reliever medication scored less well in all populations; two other images scored less well in the Somali and Malaysian groups and reflect less use of certain inhaler devices in other countries. The overall plan was well understood by all patients who were able to adequately recount the appropriate actions to take in different clinical scenarios.


We have developed a pictorial asthma action plan understandable by 3 different populations of patients with asthma.


Pictorial representations have been shown by other studies in other situations to be an effective method of reinforcing the spoken word. The pictorial asthma action plan developed for this study has been shown to be comprehensible, personalised to the individual in the usual fashion. It is now suitable for further evaluation in clinical practice.