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Asthma Foundation: It’s all about the people

It’s all about the people

31 August 2011

The two-day New Zealand Respiratory Conference, which starts in Wellington tomorrow, is about improving the lives of the nearly 1 million New Zealanders with respiratory conditions, says the Chief Executive of the Asthma Foundation, Angela Francis.

The conference, at the Michael Fowler Centre, will feature the latest research, technology, and respiratory best practice.

“All the technical work aside, though, it all comes back to what we can do to improve the lives of New Zealanders living with respiratory conditions.

“To give you examples, two cases I know of come to mind – a 13-year-old with asthma and a man in his 70s with acute emphysema,” Angela says.

The young teenager has had bad asthma since he was very young and is well known by the staff at a local hospital.

Professor Innes Asher from Auckland University will speak on ISAAC (the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood) – the biggest collaborative research programme ever, involving over two million children in 100 countries. This study aims to unlock some of the answers to reduce the harm and risks that asthma poses in the lives of children like this 13 year old.

This youngster is also of the generation who may see telehealth take off as a vital strand of preventative health policy in New Zealand. The concurrent session at the conference on telehealth by a Healthcare New Zealand representative is very relevant to the future of the health of the children in this country.

Professor Kathleen Liberty from Otago University (Christchurch) will speak on the Children’s Learning Study (CLS). An Asthma Foundation funded study carried out in the Christchurch from 2005 to 2008, the CLS linked asthma in new entrant school children and underachievement in reading, compared with their non asthmatic peers. Prof Liberty will speak at the conference on further work being done to understand what the link is. The core issue for the Asthma Foundation is children with respiratory conditions having the same educational opportunities as their peers. A PHARMAC presentation at the conference will cover a pilot in Waitemata DHB for managing asthma in pre-schoolers, which trys to pre-empt problems in primary school.

The man in his 70s has such bad emphysema he can’t even walk to the letterbox and he’s hooked up to an oxygen machine 24 hours a day. Formerly a fit man who played rugby and coached boxing, his story underscores the importance of the smoking cessation sessions at the conference. This man smoked for many years and doesn’t want people to go through what he and his whanau have, as emphysema has robbed him of the ability to enjoy life to the extent he used to.

“A number of other topics covered in speeches, presentations, discussions and workshops at the conference will be relevant to the stories of these two people and there will be sessions on conducting research and Māori and Pasifika health issues, COPD and depression and the vital on-going discussions around influenza vaccinations and public health,” Angela says.


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