The inclusion of childhood asthma as one of the five national pathways prioritised for development is promising news, but the challenge will be in the details, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ says.
The Foundation is calling on Te Whatu Ora to ensure every child with severe asthma has access to an asthma clinic within their district and access to nurse specialists and support.
Ms Letitia Harding, the Foundation’s Chief Executive, says "with New Zealand having some of the highest rates for childhood asthma - 1 in 8 children have asthma - looking at how we can improve this, and addressing the ‘postcode lottery’, is a significant step".
"Whether a child lives in Whangarei or Whanganui, Auckland or Ashburton, young New Zealanders should have equal access to treatment and services that will improve and save lives," Ms Harding adds.
Respiratory paediatrician Dr David McNamara, a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, says successive reports on the impact of respiratory health on New Zealanders have found extreme inequity of care and health outcomes.
"We hope this change will help close the gaps and standardise the medical advice, support and care for all", says Dr McNamara. "We know that Māori and Pacific children are more than twice as likely as European children to be admitted to hospital with asthma, and often don’t receive asthma preventers, education or action plans at the same rate as other children" adds Dr McNamara.
"This coupled with a shortage of paediatric respiratory specialists, two of the four Te Whatu Ora regions having no respiratory specialist at all, and diagnostic services, such as spirometry, severely lacking in most districts, doesn’t help" Dr McNamara says.
Respiratory disease is the third most common cause of death in New Zealand - one third of whom are children - and costs an estimated $7 billion annually. The Foundation says the next government must prioritise lung health for this generation and the next.
"Too much of this burden is falling on the most vulnerable New Zealanders, this must change, and it must be a focus", Ms Harding says.
15 June, 2023
Findings from the Asthma in New Zealand Survey, released today by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand, show that more than half of respondents were living with poorly controlled asthma and that many of these people were not receiving adequate care and support.