The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is calling for the next government to take long-overdue action to improve the respiratory health of New Zealanders, with successive reports showing extreme inequity in care and outcomes for those living with a respiratory condition.
"The Cure Kids State of Child Health report released this week, is the latest study to again highlight the respiratory health inequities experienced by Māori and Pacific children, and those living in poverty," says Foundation Medical Director Dr James Fingleton. "The Foundation has been reporting the same findings across all age groups of New Zealanders living with respiratory disease for many, many years. Our current systems are failing many New Zealanders, and urgent change is long overdue."
In its Political Manifesto for the next government, the Foundation is calling for practical actions that will make a real difference to respiratory health outcomes for New Zealanders. "We want to see a National Respiratory Network established in New Zealand, like the National Stroke Network and the National Cardiac Network which were set up by past Governments more than a decade ago. The proposed Respiratory Network would provide a coordinated approach to care, improve standards of care and access to care. Importantly, this move is supported by respiratory physicians at the front line," says Dr Fingleton.
"It is unacceptable that the level of care Kiwis receive for their respiratory condition depends on where they live, and what they can afford," adds Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding.
The Foundation is also calling for the $5 per item prescription co-payment fee to be removed from respiratory medications. "Research from both the Prescription Access Initiative and Otago University have found that this charge is a barrier to good respiratory health management. In simple terms, when people can’t afford to pick up essential medications, they often end up in hospital emergency rooms," says Dr Fingleton.
Another area highlighted in the manifesto is the need for greater enforcement of healthy home standards. "We know that the poor state of New Zealand’s homes continues to be a major factor in respiratory disease, with rental homes being a particular area of concern. Greater oversight and enforcement of current rules is needed, as is continued investment in healthy homes programmes," says Ms Harding.
The Foundation is hopeful that the next government, in conjunction with newly formed health bodies Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora, will finally prioritise the respiratory health of New Zealanders. "Respiratory disease is the third most common cause of death in New Zealand and costs an estimated $7 billion annually, with too much of this burden falling on the most vulnerable New Zealanders. This must change," says Ms Harding.
The Foundation's Political Manifesto can be viewed here:
The Foundation’s most recent Impact of Respiratory Health report from 2020 found that: