Asthma Australia is heralding the inclusion of air pollution measures in the Australian Government’s 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy, released this week.
Significantly, for 2.7 million people with asthma, air pollution is now recognised in the Australian Government’s 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy, with other long-standing health risks such as smoking and obesity.
CEO of Asthma Australia, Michele Goldman said they were buoyed to see their recommendation to include air quality and other environmental health risks reflected in the Strategy.
“Much like unhealthy food and water, breathing polluted air directly affects someone’s health, such as increasing risk of getting asthma or cancer,” Ms Goldman said.
“On behalf of people with asthma, we welcome the Government’s commitment to address illnesses caused by air pollution and other major environmental challenges brought on by climate change.”
The Strategy recommends a national framework for air quality information and Ms Goldman said that getting this underway should be a top priority. “It will have immediate health benefits for all Australians,” she said.
Asthma Australia is the only consumer peak body representing 2.7 million people affected by asthma, a chronic breathing condition that reacts to air pollution. During the Black Summer bushfires 1,373 people attended Emergency Departments because of asthma notwithstanding many suffering increased symptoms in their own homes.
Asthma is the 9th leading contributor to the overall burden of disease in Australia, having risen from 10th place in 2003 to 9th place in 2018, and is the leading burden of disease in children aged 5 to 9.
Since the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, Asthma Australia has been building a robust, evidence-base to support its 10 recommendations to improve Australia’s resilience towards poor air quality events.
Ms Goldman said the inclusion of air pollution in the Strategy was another positive achievement in the 24 months following the bushfires.
“During the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis, parts of Australia experienced prolonged and hazardous exposure to air pollution caused by toxic bushfire smoke. During this period, we collected data from over 12,000 people on the impact this had on their health,” she said.
To help, Asthma Australia has successfully advocated for access to near-real time air quality data and for nationally consistent air quality categories.
“Asthma Australia has made our own contributions towards improving air quality information, developing a public education campaign called ‘Airsmart’,” Ms Goldman added.
The AirSmart campaign will be ready to pilot in 2022, subject to funding support from Government, and will include the launch of an AirSmart app. AirSmart will help people access air quality data and provide guidance around reducing their exposure to air pollution and the associated health risks.
Through the consultation phase of the Strategy, Asthma Australia provided evidence that air pollution is a preventive health concern that needs to be addressed, calling for improved air quality information.
Asthma Australia joins a chorus of other organisations who welcome the National Preventive Health Strategy and will work together to achieve its outcomes. Access the strategy here.
For more information on Asthma Australia, please visit asthma.org.au/what-we-do/advocacy.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018—Key Findings. Web Report. Canberra: AIHW.
- AIHW 2021. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018—Key Findings. Web Report. Canberra: AIHW.