Did you know that respiratory disease is New Zealand’s third most common cause of death? It costs our country more than $5.5 billion every year, with over 700,000 New Zealanders affected.

In February 2016, we launched an energetic social media campaign called Hard2Breathe to raise awareness of respiratory illnesses in New Zealand. Balloons are the campaign symbol as people with respiratory disease have restricted airways, making a seemingly simple task like blowing up a balloon a struggle for them.

Throughout the month, we asked people to share photos and videos of themselves blowing up a balloon on social media to raise awareness and show support for those with a respiratory illness. We had some really creative video entries from people of all ages (and species, including cats and guinea pigs) which helped us bring attention to NZ’s shocking respiratory rates. The power of social media helped us share our message to a wider audience with some participants personally affected and others just wanting to show support. We received tens of thousands of retweets, likes, shares and comments on our Hard2Breathe social media posts and ads for the campaign. We also awarded a few creative entries with weekly prizes generously donated by some Sensitive Choice Partners.

Best of all, we finished the campaign off with a schools tour with our Hard2Breathe ambassadors, TV personality Erin Simpson along with basketballers Brook Ruscoe and Mika Vukona. We visited some awesome schools in South Auckland and helped over 800 kids to talk openly about asthma, know their triggers and understand that asthma doesn’t stop anyone from accomplishing their goals. Erin, Brook and Mika all have asthma themselves, and look at what awesome things they’ve accomplished!

As part of the visit, we asked students with asthma to take part in a balloon blowing competition to demonstrate the difficulty of exhaling with restricted airways. The kids had a lot of fun and learned how to support themselves and their peers with asthma. We also gave out balloons, drink bottles and bubble wands for them to take away with them and filmed some fun Hard2Breathe videos together!

At one school, we learned that after the Foundation funded Sailor the Puffer Fish shows in May 2015, many students went home and talked to their parents about asthma. From that, some were tested resulting in at least three students being diagnosed with asthma! We can only hope Hard2Breathe will have a similar result for many more Kiwi children.

Thank you to everyone who got involved with this campaign and helped us raise awareness, especially our affiliated partners, ambassadors Erin, Brook, Mika and everyone at Kereru Park School, Kelvin Road School and Manurewa West School.

To see some of the Hard2Breathe videos, click here.

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