Objective: To examine information needs and preferences of parents regarding food allergy.
Design: Qualitative study including in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Data were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using the constant comparative method, aided by participant checking of interview summaries, independent reviewers and qualitative analysis software.
Participants: 84 parents of children with food allergy.
Setting: Three paediatric allergy clinics and a national consumer organisation.
Results: Most parent participants had received third level education (72%) and 39% had occupational backgrounds in health and education. Parents experienced different phases in their need for information: at diagnosis when there is an intense desire for information, at follow-up when there is continuing uncertainty about allergy severity and appropriate management, and at new events and milestones. They preferred information to be provided in a variety of formats, with access to reliable individualised advice between clinic appointments, within the context of an ongoing relationship with a health professional. Parents wished to know the reasoning behind doctor’s opinions and identified areas of core information content, including unaddressed topics such as what to feed their child rather than what to avoid. Suboptimal information provision was cited by parents as a key reason for seeking second opinions.
Conclusion: Parents with children with food allergies have unmet information needs. Study findings may assist in the design and implementation of targeted educational strategies which better meet parental needs and preferences.
- food allergy
- patient education
- information needs
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Funding: WH was supported by the Australian Allergy Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, ID no. 297112. Neither funding body had any role in the study design, collection and analysis of data, or in the writing and submission of this manuscript.
Competing interests: None.