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Respiratory disease rates demand a national response

4 October 2015

New Zealand’s “shameful” respiratory disease rates demand a national response

Respiratory disease is New Zealand’s third leading cause of death costing the country $5.5 billion annually but the human cost to New Zealanders doesn’t stop there, says Asthma Foundation Chief Executive John Wills.

This week [4 November) The Foundation will release Te Hā Ora, New Zealand’s first ever national respiratory health strategy - a plan for all involved to reduce the impact of largely preventable deaths and human suffering.

Te Hā Ora National Respiratory Strategy creates a framework for the sector and government to collectively address New Zealand’s tragic respiratory rates.

“Respiratory illness affects one in six Kiwis and accounts for one in eight hospitalisations. It’s right up there with major challenges like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

“Respiratory disease is affecting more New Zealanders each year, despite all the hard work from the health sector and improvements in medication over the past decade. The situation is worsening at an enormous socio-economic cost,” John Wills says.

“With urgent action we can change these statistics. Every year 700,000 New Zealanders are affected by not being able to work, look after their families, go to school or participate in the many activities that we take for granted. And the tragic thing is, in most cases, respiratory disease is preventable.”

Te Hā Ora has five areas of practical focus: people with respiratory conditions and their families; their environment; the health community; the health system and research and evaluation. Its implementation will be tracked with metrics and an annual measurement cycle.

“Respiratory disease affects all New Zealanders, but Māori, Pacific peoples and low income families are particularly over-represented. Conditions like asthma and bronchiolitis are hurting our children and young people and stopping them from reaching their potential.”

The Asthma Foundation is supporting the leadership and facilitation of Te Hā Ora, including: launching a new website as a portal for sharing sector information; the development of a major new research programme and $15 million endowment fund; a helpline, e-learning packages for health workers, and a set of adult and paediatric guidelines.

“We’ll also work with the government to ensure the New Zealand Health Strategy’s proposed focus on chronic respiratory conditions develops into fully-fledged prioritisation status,” says John Wills.

Respiratory health experts and members of the health sector are due to gather at the New Zealand Respiratory Conference New Zealand in Wellington from 5-6 November to focus on Te Hā Ora. The local and international speakers will cover a wide variety of topics including respiratory illness in Māori and Pacific communities, healthy literacy, and the role of obesity and respiratory illness.


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