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.
"There were a number of alarming findings that came out of the survey," says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "The first was that while 74% of those surveyed rated their own asthma as either always or mostly under control, further questions revealed that in fact only 18% would be defined as having well-controlled asthma and 51% of respondents had poorly controlled asthma. This indicates that many New Zealanders may not know what well-controlled asthma actually feels like."
Asthma control describes how often people experience symptoms like wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness, as well as how often they need to use a reliever inhaler and how often asthma interfered with daily activities. The survey found that one third of respondents reported asthma interfered with their daily lives and a further 26% said that asthma significantly affected their quality of life.
"It is a real concern that asthma is having such a significant impact on so many Kiwis. The reasons for this will be due to a combination of factors including living conditions and exposure to triggers," explains Foundation Medical Director Dr James Fingleton. "However, the survey also reveals issues with care and management that could be having an impact."
The survey found that many Kiwis were not receiving regular asthma check-ups, and often those check-ups did not include basic management questions or checks. Asthma check-ups are recommended annually, but 26% of those surveyed said they had never had their asthma reviewed by a healthcare practitioner. Furthermore, 21% of respondents said they had never received instructions on how to correctly use their inhaler.
"Regular checks are vital to ensure that people are on the appropriate medication, using this medication correctly and are aware of other important self-management tools like asthma action plans. For example, we know that up to 80% of people with asthma do not use their inhalers correctly, which means they potentially not getting all the medicine they need. Regular inhaler technique checks are essential to good management, but only 22% of our respondents had their inhaler technique reviewed at their last check up," says Dr Fingleton.
The survey also asked respondents to identify their biggest concerns about having asthma. 55% were concerned about being able to get an appointment with their healthcare practitioner when needed, while 39% were worried about the costs associated with healthcare visits and prescriptions.
"These concerns are in line with what is being reported widely around New Zealand. People are struggling to get appointments, and GPs are under huge amounts of pressure. The Ministry of Health needs to be urgently looking at ways to ease that pressure, which could include enabling pharmacists and Asthma Societies to carry out asthma check-ups," says Ms Harding.
This is the Foundation’s first annual survey of New Zealanders’ experiences with asthma. The voluntary survey was anonymous and completed by 488 New Zealanders; either by parents on behalf of children with asthma or by adults living with asthma. It provides an insight into the lived experiences of Kiwis with asthma. The full report can be read here: