The theme of World Asthma Day 2022, 'Closing the gaps in asthma care', is particularly relevant to the New Zealand context says the Foundation's Medical Director Dr James Fingleton.

"Research over the last 50 years has shown that our Māori and Pacific populations and those living in the most deprived areas are carrying the heaviest health burden for asthma and other respiratory diseases.  These groups are more likely to have asthma, be hospitalised with asthma and die from asthma. A national, co-ordinated response to address these inequalities is long overdue."

Figures from the Foundation’s last impact report show that:

·      Māori are almost 3 times, and Pacific peoples 3.2 times, more likely to be hospitalised because of asthma than Pākehā or other New Zealanders. People living in the most deprived areas are almost 3 times more likely to be hospitalised than those in the least deprived areas.

·      Asthma mortality rates are more than 3 times higher for Māori and 2.7 times higher for Pacific peoples compared to other New Zealanders, while those living in the most deprived areas of New Zealand have rates 2.3 times higher than the least deprived.

·      1 in 6 Māori live with asthma, compared to 1 in 8 for the general population.  1 in 7 Pacific adults, and 1 in 6 Pacific children have asthma, while those in the most deprived communities have a rate of 1 in 7 (for adults and children) compared to 1 in 10 for children and 1 in 11 for adults in the least deprived neighbourhoods.

Dr Fingleton says that change will only be achieved through widespread, cross-sector cooperation.  "At the government level, respiratory health needs to be a priority and investment must be made into targeted programmes aiming to reduce inequalities."  He is hopeful that the upcoming reforms of the health system which includes the establishment of a new Māori Health Authority, might lead to substantive improvements.

At the community level, Dr Fingleton says health practitioners need to reflect on how they can improve their support of the most at-risk asthma groups and make best use of tools and resources already available.

Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding says for New Zealanders living with asthma, World Asthma Day is a good time to do an audit of their own asthma care.  “It is worth visiting a health practitioner and checking to see if you are on the best treatment and if you need an updated asthma management plan.”

As a not-for-profit organisation, that does not receive any Government funding, the Foundation is also hoping to raise funds for its work in closing the gaps this World Asthma Day. This work includes the recent appointment of a dedicated Māori Community Liaison Officer, providing translations of its essential asthma resources, running an educational show for primary school students in Te Reo Māori and commissioning research into the impact of asthma and other respiratory diseases on New Zealanders.

Ends

You can find more information on asthma and respiratory disease in New Zealand by reading the Foundation’s 2020 impact report here. The key statistics are summarised here

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