World Asthma Day - Tuesday May 6

World Asthma Day - Tuesday May 6

The National Asthma Council lifts the weight on the burden of asthma

On World Asthma Day, Tuesday May 6, doctors interested in asthma worldwide will highlight the health and cost burden of asthma.

New figures released today estimate that 1 in 20 people in the world now have asthma. According to new research1, asthma is now one of the world's most common long-term conditions. It affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide, which includes more than two million Australians.

The National Asthma Council, the peak body for asthma in Australia, will utilise the sixth World Asthma Day to focus attention on asthma across the globe, stressing how increased asthma awareness and better asthma management will lessen the worldwide burden.

While the number of deaths (1 in 250) due to asthma is relatively low compared with other conditions, many asthma deaths are preventable. Suboptimal medical care and a lack of information means that people continue to die needlessly from the condition.

Fortunately, in Australia, the number of deaths from asthma has plummeted from 964 in 1989 to 422 in 2001, since the formation of Australia's peak asthma body, the National Asthma Council.

Professor Richard Beasley, from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand and author of the 'The Burden of Asthma Report' commissioned by the Global Initiative for Asthma, said everyone must take action to decrease the global asthma problem.

"From a worldwide perspective, individual countries need to take urgent action and make asthma a major health priority within their own regions," Professor Beasley said.

"Individual countries need to harness the valuable information and resources available worldwide. As an example, the National Asthma Council has effectively forged a greater understanding of improved treatment and management of asthma in Australia and abroad," Professor Beasley said.

"New Zealand recognises Australia as a world leader in asthma education, management and research and has subsequently adopted some of the National Asthma Council's initiatives and programs into its own," Professor Beasley said.

Professor Beasley highlighted the five positive steps to manage asthma from the Global Initiative for Asthma focused on following a proactive and systematic approach.

"The steps include being aware of asthma factors and triggers, learning to recognise when symptoms are becoming worse, taking medication as prescribed by the doctor, knowing what to do in the event of an asthma attack and asking your doctor for a written asthma action plan."

The Chairman of the National Asthma Council, Dr Ron Tomlins, said that until there is greater understanding of the factors that cause asthma so we can reduce the prevalence of asthma, priority should be given to cost-effective management procedures and approaches.

"While the global burden of asthma may be great, the burden of asthma doesn't have to be as onerous for the individual. Working with your doctor to better understand your asthma and how to treat it, having your own written asthma action plan and seeing your doctor regularly for review, leads to better asthma control and less restriction to your life."

Asthma contributes to an escalating economic and social cost.

The economic price tag connected to asthma in Australia and the world, is significant, both in terms of direct medical costs such as pharmaceuticals and hospital admissions, as well as indirect medical costs resulting from work absenteeism and premature death.

The National Asthma Council strongly supports World Asthma Day as the way to draw international attention to the impact of asthma and the need for proactive asthma management by government, health professionals, the community and people with asthma.

5 Steps to reduce The Burden of Asthma
Take action today!

  1. Ask your doctor to arrange a written asthma action plan for you to assist you in managing your asthma more effectively. Work with your doctor to help yourself and record what is and is not effective so that keeping your asthma under control is simple and uncomplicated.

  2. Take medications prescribed by your doctor. Unfortunately many people do not follow directions adequately. Simple steps like following your doctor's advice will assist in better managing your asthma.

  3. Be aware of the triggers that make your asthma worse. Ask your doctor what to look out for. Find out what your particular asthma triggers may be and then try to adjust your lifestyle to suit. Always keep your asthma medication handy.

  4. Learn to recognise when your symptoms are getting worse. If your asthma action plan is not working, visit your doctor to investigate and prepare a new plan.

  5. Know what to do in an asthma attack. Also let those around you and close to you know what to do in case of an asthma attack.

For further information visit the National Asthma Council website

World statistics can be obtained by visiting