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World Asthma Day New Zealand

Govt needs to step up action on asthma

Alison Grant

Tuesday 06 May 2014, 1:03PM

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More and more children are being admitted to hospital with asthma and other respiratory conditions Leaders in asthma care are calling on the Government to fix poverty for today's World Asthma Day so young New Zealanders do not have to live with preventable diseases.

Medical director for the Asthma Foundation Kyle Perrin says if all asthmatics had good control of their symptoms there would be a "dramatic decrease" in hospital admission.

"However, many patients with bad asthma have difficulty controlling their condition due to factors which are outside of their control," Dr Perrin says in a media release.

Many New Zealanders who live in poverty do not have the opportunity to control their asthma because of sub-standard housing and financial constraints preventing visits to the GP or pharmacy to pick up medication, he says.

Asthma Foundation chief executive Angela Francis believes addressing the social determinants of health will go a long way to improving asthma control and reducing hospital admissions.

"We are asking the Government to improve incomes for all low income families with children, to develop a housing strategy that will result in all children being well housed, and to improve access to primary healthcare for all New Zealanders," Ms Francis says in the release.

The Global Asthma Network chair and professor at the University of Auckland Innes Asher says there are high costs for poorly controlled asthma.

The burden of asthma costs to the New Zealand economy was last estimated in 1999 and totalled $825 million - $125 million in direct costs and $700 million in indirect costs, according to Professor Asher.

A Child Poverty Action Group report released last week (1 May) reveals the rate of hospital admissions for asthma, wheeze and bronchiolitis has been rising since 2007 for children up to 14 years, she says.

These rates are especially high in families living in poverty, Professor Asher says.

Because of this "deteriorating picture" of asthma rates in New Zealand, Professor Asher is asking the Government to develop a national strategy for asthma so everyone in the country has the same access to care.

With Budget Day on the horizon, she wants to see poverty addressed by lifting the income of the lowest wage earners, dropping prescription charges and working towards making homes healthy.

"We would like to see people's wellbeing prioritised in the Budget; we don't want people to have diseases that are preventable."

Get walking on World Asthma Day

As part of World Asthma Day, lifelong asthmatic Jo Turner is encouraging other asthmatics to "get out there" and start walking after completing over 120 half-marathons herself.

"You can control your asthma" is the theme for 2014's Asthma Day and Ms Turner is living proof that controlling asthma conditions is possible.

This weekend marked approximately 120 half-marathons for Ms Turner, and she placed third in her age group at the Rotorua event (4 May).

Ms Turner was a winner at this year's Asthma Foundation Achiever's Awards, with judges saying they loved the way she demonstrated tenacity in the face of adversity and how she managed her condition extremely well.

World Asthma Day is an annual event run by the Global Initiative for Asthma to improve asthma awareness and treatment around the world.

Asthma causes an estimated 250,000 deaths worldwide each year.

Related link

Our Children, Our Choice: Priorities for Policy - Child Poverty Action Group policy paper series