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New Zealand soars in World Asthma Day comparison

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of NZ (Inc.)

Media Release

New Zealand soars in World Asthma Day comparison

World Asthma Day 2006 started with a bang in New Zealand as thousands of Kiwis participated in the first ever Balloon Day for kids with asthma on Saturday. The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s focus for Balloon Day was to increase awareness about respiratory conditions and to raise money for child asthma research. 28 regions throughout New Zealand enjoyed colourful spectacles involving balloons, smiling children, celebrities, and asthma education activities. The events were supported by Contact Energy in association with Mitre 10. To donate $20 to child asthma research, please call 0900 4 ASTHMA (0900 4 278 462).

World Asthma Day is an annual event held on the first Tuesday of May. While Balloon Day activities were embraced in New Zealand and supported by local communities, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation believes that there is still a lot of awareness work to be done. The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s Executive Director Jane Patterson is disappointed that New Zealand’s asthma rates continue to tower over the world mean.

“The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) organisation has announced that one in 20 people worldwide has asthma, but the Kiwi story is much darker. One in four of our kids and one in six of our adults is struggling for breath. Our rates soar above most other countries.”

“In the build up to Balloon Day, I met with the Minister of Health Hon Pete Hodgson to talk about the huge impact of respiratory disease in New Zealand. We hope that he reviews New Zealand’s Health Strategy to include respiratory illness as a top health priority for DHBs."

“I have also written to the Minister of Housing Hon Chris Carter about the link between cold damp housing and our children’s respiratory health. We are pleased that the government will expand the state housing sector, but there needs to be a minimum standard for private rental accommodation, to prevent avoidable hospital admissions relating to asthma.”

"The prevailing attitude is that asthma is a fairly harmless health condition, but in fact, it can result in a number of preventable deaths each year. Maori and Pacific Island children have more severe asthma symptoms and are hospitalised twice as often as New Zealand European children. Our new research document shows that respiratory illness is a far greater health issue than the Government has taken into account.”

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s new research document “Trying to catch our breath – the burden of preventable breathing diseases in children and young people” is edited by Professor Innes Asher and Dr Cass Byrnes. It outlines New Zealand’s appalling statistics and makes recommendations for action for the government, Ministry of Health and other key players. The document is available at the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s website www.asthmanz.co.nz.

Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be effectively treated. Research shows that with proper treatment, nearly all asthma patients can achieve and maintain good asthma control, enabling them to participate fully in school, work, and other normal activities.

World wide there are some general patterns that emerge and contribute to poor asthma management. These include improper diagnosis, under-treatment or inappropriate treatment, lack of patient education about how to manage their disease, and poor environmental health that leaves patients exposed to pollutants and chemicals that make their asthma symptoms worse.

- Diagnosis: Some people with asthma symptoms may never receive a diagnosis of asthma, and thus do not have the opportunity for good asthma treatment and control.

- Treatment: Often because of the cost of medicines, people with asthma may not receive sufficient medication to control their asthma. Other times, the treatments prescribed may not correspond to evidence-based guidelines. The underuse of inhaled glucocorticosteroids for long-term management of asthma is a particular problem.

- Education: People with asthma may not understand how to use their medications properly, or may not understand concepts such as asthma control and when to seek help for worsening asthma that would help them manage their disease effectively.

- Environmental health: People with asthma may be exposed to conditions such as outdoor or indoor air pollution, cigarette smoke, or chemicals on the job that make their symptoms worse.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is a charitable organisation that provides information and acts as an advocate for people with respiratory illnesses. The Foundation has been helping Kiwis breathe easier for over 40 years.

For more information about Balloon Day in your region, or asthma and respiratory disease, please call your local affiliated asthma society or check out the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s website www.asthmanz.co.nz.

ENDS

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