Media Releases

Asthma management turns over a new leaf with launch of the National Asthma Strategy

31 Jan 2018

The Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, today launched the new National Asthma Strategy which updates the national response to this chronic disease affecting more than 2.5 million Australians.

The Strategy aims to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of asthma with a targeted and comprehensive approach to optimise asthma diagnosis and management.

It is a blueprint for improving the prevention, care and management of asthma for people with asthma and their families, health care providers, researchers and government.

Building on the significant progress made in asthma over the past three decades the Strategy’s development was led by the National Asthma Council Australia, in partnership with Asthma Australia, with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

“It has been a collaborative effort from many stakeholders, including all levels of government, industry and patients. The Strategy is underpinned by a whole-of-system approach that has the person with asthma and their caregivers at the centre,” said Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council and respiratory physician.

“As Australia’s most widespread chronic health condition, asthma has a significant impact on the community,” said The Hon. David Simmons OAM, Chair of Asthma Australia. “We’re looking forward to putting the Strategy into practice by delivering programs in the community such as our national asthma helpline and telephone coaching service, asthma first aid training and school guidelines that will reach around half a million young people.”

A key focus of the Strategy is to improve outcomes for those with asthma who face specific challenges, such as people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those with severe or poorly controlled asthma. This is where the biggest gap between evidence and practice lies, and where the potential for reducing its impact is greatest.

“We know by optimising asthma diagnosis and management, significant gains can be achieved in a patient’s quality of life,” said Dr Burdon. “As a result of that, we will see substantial reductions in asthma related deaths and associated costs.”

In the recently released PBS annual expenditure report, two asthma medications were listed amongst the most expensive drugs to the health system.

“Though asthma medication causes a significant burden on tax dollars every year, patients are not necessarily getting the appropriate treatments to improve their symptoms,” said Dr Burdon. “It is critical that the health professional workforce is armed with appropriate knowledge and tools to identify the best options with their patients.”

With the funding support from the Federal Government, the National Asthma Council Australia has developed and delivered numerous health professional information papers that covers a wide range of topics in asthma, as well as the Asthma Best Practice education program, which has been highly effective to prepare health professionals with practical advice to deliver best care. 

The Strategy also emphasises the importance of prevention and patient self-management.

Mr Simmons said, “When it comes to the asthma mortality rate and hospitalisations, we have reached a plateau over the last 20 years. Poor self-management of asthma has contributed to this and we must continue our work with people with asthma to address the reasons for poor management, to challenge myths about asthma, and provide ongoing education and support.”

Research shows that 45 per cent of Australian asthma patients don’t adhere to their management plan for various reasons; only 25 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children with asthma have a written asthma action plan and nearly 40 per cent of people with asthma only use reliever medicines. Inevitably, a quarter of these patients were forced to seek last-minute treatment for a dangerous flare-up in their condition.  

“The reality is that those numbers need to be improved significantly if we want to make an impact on asthma in Australia,” said Mr Simmons. “We’re hopeful that a funding commitment will be made alongside the launch of the new national strategy, to maintain and expand programs that can create this change.”

“The good news is that a significant proportion of asthma morbidity and its associated costs to the health system and the community are preventable, and we now know exactly what to do to move the dial.”

Dr Burdon remarked that for the 1 in 10 Australians with asthma the Strategy is a beacon of hope that their government cares and has concrete plans to make their lives better.

“The Strategy prompts all of us working in asthma to re-examine our work to ensure what we are doing is appropriate and effective for Australia’s diverse population,” added Dr Burdon. “We applaud the Minister’s vision and leadership, which will bring all the stakeholders together in a planned and coordinated way to affect change”.

For more information on asthma, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website:  www.nationalasthma.org.au

Read more about the National Asthma Strategy: www.nationalasthma.org.au/about-us/national-asthma-strategy.

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:

Lelde McCoy, The Reputation Group  

Mob: 0417 362 768    

Email: [email protected]  

Further information

Key facts about asthma

  • In Australia, one in 10 adults and children have asthma. Around 4 out of 5 people with asthma also have allergies, such as pollen-related hay fever. 
  • In 2016 chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.1%) were the fifth leading cause of deaths in Australia (ABS). A significant proportion of asthma morbidity and its associated costs in Australia are preventable.
  • In 2016, a total of 455 people died from asthma (male 143, female 312). More than half of those who died were older women, aged 65 and over (257 of 455)

Background

The National Asthma Strategy 2018 (the Strategy) aims to outline Australia’s national response to asthma and inform how existing limited health care resources can be better coordinated and targeted across all levels of government. It identifies the most effective and appropriate interventions to reduce the impact of asthma in the community and for Australia to continue to be an international leader in asthma prevention, management and research.

The goal of the Strategy is to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of asthma with a targeted and comprehensive approach to optimise asthma diagnosis and management, including within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and other priority populations. To achieve this, the Strategy outlines five high-level objectives with potential areas for action. While the Strategy is not an action plan and does not mandate any specific activities, it does include potential initiatives to be considered by governments and health organisations in planning any future action relating to asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions.

This Strategy responds to the unique challenges of asthma in Australia. Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia, with prevalence and mortality rates that are high by international comparison. Asthma remains a significant cause of ill health, disability and poor quality of life in Australia. As is the case with many chronic conditions, asthma is markedly overrepresented in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Australia is a world leader in the asthma field and an active member of the global asthma community. This Strategy builds on the considerable progress that Australia has made in asthma over recent decades and builds on our strengths as a nation in order to realise further improvements in asthma outcomes.

The National Asthma Council Australia led the development of this Strategy, in partnership with Asthma Australia, and with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health. This Strategy has been informed by the expert advice of the National Asthma Strategy Advisory Group and consultations with key stakeholders and the community.

The Strategy aligns with the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions and the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023. It has been  developed in consultation with state and territory jurisdictions via the Community Care and Population Health Principal Committee, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Standing Committee, the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, and the Council of Australian Governments.  

The five objectives of the Strategy are:

  • Support effective self-management practices
  • Develop the health professional workforce
  • Enhance asthma care and management
  • Create supportive community environments
  • Promote research, evidence and data

Supporting people with asthma to increase knowledge, confidence and skills for effective self-management practices will empower them to play an active role in their own health care, better control their condition and lead full and active lives.

It is critical that a suitably trained, resourced and distributed health workforce is supported to work to its full scope of practice and is responsive to change. Though asthma is predominantly managed in primary health care by GPs, there is potential for increased participation by primary health care nurses and pharmacists.

Health providers deliver a plethora of services across many levels. Strong governance and leadership is required to support evidence-based shared decision-making, encourage collaboration to enhance health system performance, and remove system barriers to optimal care for all Australians.

Creating supportive community environments will promote health and reduce asthma risk, with a focus on minimising or preventing asthma from worsening and reducing the risk of people with asthma developing additional chronic conditions, complications and/or associated disabilities. A multi-sectoral approach is most effective at improving asthma care and patient outcomes.

Australian asthma research is internationally renowned and dynamic, pursuing a range of outcomes related to prevention, cure and asthma care. Research, evidence and data are essential to strengthening evidence-based practice for the diagnosis and management of asthma, identifying ways of preventing or curing asthma, informing health policy, offering new and improved treatments, and evaluating the effectiveness of efforts to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of asthma.

Future action to address asthma will involve collaboration with stakeholders across all levels of governments, the health sector and relevant organisations.  

20 Jan 2018

Help your asthma patients be back-to-school ready