World Asthma Day: Newry politicians call for better strategies
Local political representatives in the Newry & Mourne area have called for more awareness and better strategies to be put in place to tackle asthma. The politicians were reacting after new data released today by Asthma UK found that a staggering 40% of people in Northern Ireland with asthma are deemed to be at a ‘highly increased risk of a potentially fatal attack’. The shocking revelations were just one of many findings from Asthma UK’s ‘Triple A: Avoid Asthma Attacks Test’.
Crucially, the findings show that people with asthma are considerably underestimating their risk of having an attack. Over half of respondents in Northern Ireland (54%) did not think they were at increased risk, however the results reveal that actually 93% were at increased or highly increased risk. Every year in Northern Ireland more than 20 people die from asthma and over 1,700 people are hospitalised, yet asthma attacks and hospital admissions can be prevented by spotting and treating early warning signs.
The ‘Triple A Test’ is aimed at people with asthma throughout the UK to help them find out their risk of having an asthma attack and advise them what they can do to reduce it. It asks simple questions about factors which have all been independently linked to an increased or highly increased risk of an asthma attack that could lead to a frightening hospital admission, for example how often respondents use their blue (reliever) inhaler. The test makes clear that everyone’s asthma is different and symptoms can come and go; this does not mean there is no risk of an attack when symptoms are absent.
Speaking to Newry Times, Joan O’Hagan, Director of Asthma UK Northern Ireland, said: “It’s extremely worrying that many people with asthma in Northern Ireland do not realise their own risk of ending up in hospital. As up to 75% of emergency hospital admissions are preventable with better management and support, it’s vitally important that the 182,000 people with asthma in Northern Ireland understand their condition and it is crucial that they are supported by healthcare professionals who can help them to reduce their risk.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane spoke to Newry Times and called on a strategy to deal with asthma to be enforced right across the island of Ireland. “On World Asthma Day it is important that we acknowledge the impact of this condition which affects over 470,000 people right across Ireland. It is a debilitating, often disabling and sometimes fatal condition that affects all age groups, but especially the very young and older people. Asthma makes major demands on the health services, with over 25,000 people presenting with the condition at A&E units annually. There has been a very worrying increase in the incidence of the condition among teenagers.”
Ruane continued, “Given that Ireland now has the fourth highest rate of asthma in the world it is clear that a comprehensive Government-led strategy is needed. Such a strategy would shift the emphasis from the current dependence on crisis management and hospital care for asthma patients to pro-active disease management based in the primary care system. At present, our under-developed primary care system is not geared to such an approach. However, its proper development with pro-active care for conditions such as asthma would be both more beneficial for patients and more cost-effective for the healthcare system overall.”
“I would call on Health Minister Edwin Poots to use World Asthma Day as an incentive to put in place a proactive strategy that will help lower the incidents of asthma in the North of Ireland. It is also important that housing conditions are improved so that the patients with asthma are not living in conditions that will exasperate their condition,” she added.
DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells said a re-focus on asthma is needed. “Asthma is a debilitating condition which can have a profound impact on the lives of sufferers both young and old. Whilst considerable progress has been made in the treatment of what can be a life threatening condition, a cure remains elusive. I hope that World Asthma Day will encourage policy makers, health professionals and carers to re-focus their efforts to support those who suffer form this widespread condition.”
Asthma UK Northern Ireland provides information, advice and materials to help people with asthma to manage their condition and the Triple A Test is just one example of the work Asthma UK Northern Ireland is doing to reduce hospital admissions and prevent deaths from asthma. To take the Triple A: Avoid Asthma Attacks Test, please visit asthma.org.uk/TripleA
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