The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) is disappointed that the Ministry of Health has not confirmed funding for an app that could improve the lives of the 700,000 Kiwis living with respiratory disease.

ARFNZ launched the MyAsthma app in 2017, to provide information and basic tools to help people manage their asthma. Recently, the app was reviewed by Health Navigator NZ, and along with feedback from ARFNZ’s Scientific Advisory Board and the general public, this highlighted areas for improvement. The app needs to be redeveloped and enhanced to give patients the ability to fully track and record their daily symptoms, peak flow readings and medication reminders, among other things. This will vastly improve self-management and ultimately overall wellbeing for app users.

"One in seven Kiwi children and one in eight adults are living with asthma, and, if updated, the MyAsthma app could allow them to manage their symptoms more effectively," says ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "Asthma costs New Zealand over $1 billion per year, and there is no cure, so it’s all about how to manage your condition and know your symptoms. Good self-management can literally be life-saving.

"We’re really disappointed that there’s been no movement from the Ministry in terms of funding for what is obviously a worthwhile project with tangible benefits."

The app would also serve the vital purpose of getting updates to the asthmatic community directly. This is particularly important in terms of updates and targeted information relating to COVID-19. Since the pandemic, ARFNZ has been addressing queries via its social media channels around how COVID-19 impacts asthmatics.

"In the COVID-19 environment, tools that patients can access and use independently at home have never been more important, "says ARFNZ Medical Director Dr James Fingleton. "What’s more, an app that provides relevant information and encourages effective self-management of asthma lowers the burden of the disease, both for individuals and for the healthcare system."

"We know exactly what needs to be done to redevelop the MyAsthma app to meet the needs of New Zealanders," adds ARFNZ Research and Education Manager Joanna Turner. "The suggested redevelopment has been approved by our Scientific Advisory Board, who work to keep our information and resources fully up-to-date. It makes sense for there to be one national asthma app that is promoted to all New Zealanders living with asthma, and as ARFNZ produces the National Asthma Guidelines, we are in the best position to develop it."