Asthma in Australia 2005 
Table of Contents | Chapter  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  | Appendix   1   2   | References |

6 Management
| Introduction | 6.1 Written asthma action plans | 6.2 Medication use | 6.3 Spirometry |

Key points

Written asthma action plans

  • Asthma action plans are written instructions on how to recognise when asthma is getting worse, and what action to take when it does. They help many people control their asthma and stay out of hospital.
  • Most people with current asthma do not have a written asthma action plan. Young adults, adult men, and persons living in less well-off areas are least likely to have a written asthma action plan.
  • There was an increase in the number of people who had these plans in the early 1990s. However, the number of people with asthma who have written asthma action plans decreased during the period since 1995.
  • People with current symptoms of asthma or more severe asthma are more likely to have a written asthma action plan.


  • The most common type of respiratory medication used in all age groups is bronchodilators (mainly short-acting beta agonists), which are used by people with asthma and COPD for relief of symptoms.
  • The use of nebulised administration of bronchodilators has declined since 2000.
  • There is evidence that many people with asthma who would benefit from use of inhaled corticosteroids are not using them regularly.
  • The majority of inhaled corticosteroids are taken in the highest dose. It is likely that for many people their asthma could be well controlled with a lower dose of inhaled corticosteroid.
  • In 2004, two-thirds of inhaled corticosteroids used were in a combined formulation with long-acting beta agonists. Use of this combined medication should allow the use of lower doses of inhaled corticosteroids, with equivalent efficacy.


  • Spirometry is a breathing test used to help diagnose and monitor asthma and other lung diseases.
  • Between 1994 and 2004, there was little apparent change in the use of spirometry among all age groups. There was a steady decline in spirometry claims from 1998 to 2004 in those aged 5 to 34 years.
  • There is a lot of variation between the states and territories in the number of claims for performing spirometry. The reason for this variation is not known.


Over the last 20 years a consensus has emerged, based on available evidence, that written asthma action plans and regular use of medications that control the disease and prevent exacerbations are key elements in the effective management of asthma. Additionally, the important role of spirometry in the diagnosis, assessment and follow-up of patients with asthma has been recognised for many years.

This chapter will review the data relating to the use of these management strategies and their implementation in the Australian population.

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© Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005

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