Asthma Australia and revisiting management protocols
June 27, 2023
Asthma prevalence on the rise across Australia
The National Health Survey data, recently released, indicates a continuing rise in asthma incidence in Australia. Currently, about 2.7 million Australians, which is 11.2% of the population, are impacted by asthma. This is a notable increase from 2.5 million or 10.8% in 2014/15.
South Australia witnesses the highest incidence of asthma among all states or territories, experiencing a jump from 10.6% to 13%. There has also been a significant increase in Queensland, with the rate of asthma climbing from 10.6% to 11.9%.
This updated data emphasises the need for sustained investment in asthma support services, education, and research to better assist the millions of Australians affected.
Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia, has expressed her concerns regarding this trend. She asserts that Australia, as a developed nation with an exceptional healthcare system, has the resources to address this escalating concern.
Goldman suggests that without implementing the knowledge that we have, we can’t anticipate changes in outcomes for people with asthma. She calls for more investment into preventive measures to ensure individuals with asthma can lead a healthy life and prevent hospital admissions.
Goldman and her team are working closely with governments and key industry partners to adopt a more systemic approach to address asthma, leveraging all available resources. The CEO of Asthma Australia emphasises the need for research to better comprehend the situation in Australia and ultimately discover a cure.
Asthma as we know it
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterised by difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are a result of constriction in the muscles around the airways, along with inflammation and mucus production within the airways. In severe cases, these symptoms can escalate to a life-threatening asthma emergency.
People with asthma have airways that display sensitivity to certain triggers that might not affect those without the condition. These triggers can range from exercise, exposure to pollen or dust mites, or even cigarette smoke.
Diagnosis of asthma is not based on a single test but rather involves a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Doctors typically inquire about the patient’s family history regarding asthma, eczema, or hay fever and try to identify any potential causes for the symptoms before clinically diagnosing the patient with asthma.
For patients over five years old, a lung function test is employed to measure the airflow in and out of the lungs, assisting in the diagnosis process. Asthma is more likely to be the diagnosis if the symptoms recur or manifest annually, intensify at night or early morning, are clearly triggered by exercise, allergies or infections, follow a seasonal pattern, or rapidly improve with reliever medication.
To revisit the guidelines around diagnosis of asthma through spirometry, the following handbook gives a thorough explanation of the process and interpretation of outcomes: https://d8z57tiamduo7.cloudfront.net/resources/NAC_Spirometry-Quick-Reference-Guide_2020.pdf
Or visit the National Guidelines for Health Professionals handbook for General Practitioners at the National Asthma Council of Australia: https://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/
The Australian Asthma Handbook provides best-practice, evidence-based guidance translated into practical advice for primary care health professionals.
Revisiting the Guidelines and Patient-Centred Care
Asthma Australia in conjunction with Julia Ovens have compiled an online course targeting GPs and their approach to Asthma diagnosis and revisiting the action plans of sufferers. Throughout the course, Julia looks to speak to her own experience with Asthma and apply the patient’s perspective in assessing symptoms and quality of life throughout her treatment journey. Peace of mind is a motivating factor for Julia, who is highly engaged in life’s challenges through her treatment and prevention of the condition.
Course: Working together with patients to improve asthma management
Provider: Asthma Australia Ltd
Available at: https://app.medcpd.com/courses/1310
Duration: 1.0 Hour
Accessibility: Online Only
For more information on Julia and her story of Asthma, see here: https://asthma.org.au/blog/an-ordinary-woman/
Brazzale D, Hall G, Swanney MP. Reference values for spirometry and their use in test interpretation: A position statement from the Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science. Respirology 2016; 21: 1201-9.
Graham BL, Steenbruggen I, Miller MR et al. Standardisation of spirometry 2019 update. An official American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society technical statement. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2019; 200: e70-e88.