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Drugs. 2001;61(9):1289-300.

Changing approaches to asthma management in Australia: effects on asthma morbidity.

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1
School of Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. E.Comino@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Asthma is an important public health issue in Australia and is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality in the community. Recognition of the impact of asthma on the health of Australians, and the apparent failure of new medications to reduce mortality and hospital admission rates resulted in a major review by the stakeholders in asthma care. This led to new approaches to asthma management based on strategic use of asthma medications and the development of the Asthma Management Plan (AMP). The AMP drew together current understanding of asthma to develop a simple stepwise approach to management that could be readily applied in patient management. The National Asthma Campaign (NAC), a coalition of the major stakeholders in asthma care, was launched in 1990 to lead the dissemination of the AMP. In association with other organisations interested in asthma care in Australia, the NAC has developed the AMP, and co-ordinated a decade of education and advocacy about asthma that targeted doctors, health professionals and the general public. These activities have been successful in raising awareness about asthma in the community. However, recent research, while demonstrating the continued uptake of written asthma action plans for asthma and decrease in use of inhaled bronchodilator medications, reported a decrease in use of preventive therapy by people with asthma. These activities have had a sustained impact on asthma-related health outcomes with mortality at the lowest level since 1960 and a decline in hospital readmission rates. This is useful information because there is sound evidence that the prevalence and possibly severity of asthma in children has increased. However, review of management in primary care and among people who present to emergency services with acute asthma suggest that many people continue to manage their asthma poorly. Continued education is needed to build on the progress that has been made. There are opportunities to do this through efforts to integrate general practitioners into the wider health system through the formation of Divisions of General Practice. Recognition of asthma as a health priority area at a national level will help to enhance and maintain awareness of the public health importance of asthma and facilitate the further development of the initiatives begun during the last decade or more.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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