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Better management of asthma possible
Canberra , 10 August 2005

Better management of asthma in the community is not only possible, but has the potential to reduce the impact of the disease on people’s lives, according to a report by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM)—a collaborating unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Asthma in Australia 2005, was launched in Sydney today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne.

It shows that 1 in 7 children and 1 in 9 adults have current doctor-diagnosed asthma—these are high levels by international standards.

But, according to ACAM Director, Dr Guy Marks, there is much that can be done to improve outcomes of asthma and reduce attacks.

‘Written asthma action plans have been shown to be very effective in managing this disease, yet their use has been falling since 1995. Only around 1 in 6 people with current asthma have them.’

‘The plans are written instructions on how to recognise when asthma is getting worse, and what action to take when it does. There is no doubt that these plans help many people to control their asthma and stay out of hospital.

‘Similarly, regular use of inhaled corticosteroids can reduce asthma symptoms and prevent severe episodes in people with persistent asthma, but our statistics show that many people who would benefit from using them regularly are not doing so. On the other hand, among people using inhaled corticosteroids, the majority are taking them at the highest dose. For some of these people a lower dose may be just as effective.’

Dr Marks said there was nevertheless plenty of good news to tell about asthma.

‘Deaths due to asthma are pretty uncommon now, with the rates falling by half since the early 1990s. In 2003, 314 people died in Australia due to asthma, with nearly two-thirds of these deaths being in people aged 65 years or over.’

‘And since the early 1990s there has also been a fall in rates of GP visits and hospitalisations for asthma in all age groups, especially children.’

Other findings in the report include:

• Children attend emergency departments for asthma most frequently after the beginning of each school term, possibly because of increased spread of respiratory infections at this time.

• Asthma is more common among Indigenous Australians, particularly adults, than other Australians.

• In primary school-aged children, asthma is more common among boys. After the teenage years, more women have asthma than men.

Further information: For interviews with Dr Guy Marks and other ACAM staff, please call Lucy Williams, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, tel. 0403 753 028

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032


Asthma in Australia 2005 Report

Asthma in Australia 2005 Slides


Further Information

Asthma deaths on the decline but burden remains high
- Canberra, 8 October 2003

The most comprehensive set of asthma data ever compiled in Australia has been released today by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM)-a collaborating unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Asthma in Australia 2003 shows that the prevalence of asthma in Australia remains one of the highest in the world, affecting 14-16% of children and 10-12% of adults. The disease has an important impact on use of health services, time lost from work or study and general well-being Children, particularly those under 5 years, have higher rates of hospitalisation and emergency department visits for asthma than adults. More boys than girls have the disease. However, after teenage years, asthma is more common in women than in men.
Indigenous Australians have higher asthma hospitalisation rates than non-Indigenous Australians, particularly among adults.

But there is some good news. Deaths due to asthma are uncommon and rates have fallen by more than half since the late 1980s. Hospitalisation for asthma among children has also reduced during the 1990s.

ACAM Director, Dr Guy Marks, said that despite these gains, Australia still had a long way to go in the fight against asthma.

'Although deaths from asthma have fallen in the past decade, asthma is still a major reason for health care visits and lost productivity.'

'Asthma is a common reason for people to visit their GPs, particularly among young children. About 3% of all GP attendances between 1998-99 to 2001-02 were for asthma.
'There's also a lot of room for improvement in ways we manage the disease-asthma action plans are very important in helping many people control their asthma and stay out of hospital."

'However, the report shows that many people with asthma, particularly young men, still don't have asthma action plans.'

The report also shows that smoking remains a problem among people with asthma. Young males with asthma aged 18 to 34 years, in particular those living in disadvantaged areas, were the most likely to smoke.

Among children with asthma, about 42% of boys and 39% of girls reported living with one or more regular smokers.

Overall, people with asthma rated their health poorer than those without the disease.

ACAM has been established under the National Health Priority Areas (NHPA) initiative of the Australian governments to track underlying changes in asthma and its risk factors in Australia. The Centre, a collaborating unit of the AIHW, is located at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Further information
Guy Marks

Kuldeep Bhatia, AIHW,
tel 02 6244 1144
mobile 0417 880 300

Asthma In Australia 2003 Report

Asthma In Australia 2003 Slides