Last updated on 23/01/2023


Australian Public Hospitals are under immense pressure. States and territories are in crisis and calling for more funding. But Asthma Australia says some simple solutions can ease pressure on the health system, avoid hospitalisations and unscheduled healthcare.  

The latest Australian Burden of Disease Study 2022 estimates the impact of disease and injuries on the population.  

According to this study, asthma is the health condition having the greatest impact on school children aged 5-14 years, representing 14.2% of the total disease burden for boys, and 11.7% for girls.1 It is also a key reason for missing school due to chronic illness.2 

Asthma Australia Medical Director John Blakey says coming back after a long summer break is high risk time for kids with asthma; facing an often preventable visit to the hospital with breathing difficulty. 

“Holidays mean a more relaxed approach to usual routines at home, and that can include taking asthma preventers less frequently. This puts kids at risk of serious attacks when they encounter triggers,” says Dr John Blakey. “Coming back from holidays into the classroom inevitably means a spread of respiratory viruses which are the leading cause of serious asthma attacks in children.3 If kids haven’t been taking their preventer regularly during the break, they will be more likely to get sick.” 

The prevalence of asthma in children in Australia is among the highest of the world, yet 44% of children aged 0-14 did not have a written Asthma Action Plan in place in 2017-18.4 

Asthma Australia says a written Asthma Action Plan and a conversation with their asthma support team on 1800 ASTHMA can help parents get their kids breathing with more ease for the start of the 2023 school year.  

“Asthma Action Plans are proven to work and can be extremely helpful, especially to prevent worsening of symptoms or a visit to the hospital,” Senior Manager of Asthma Australia, Anthony Flynn, said.    

“Asthma Australia has updated its School Health Check Guidelines and fact sheets for school staff to help create a safer environment for children. It’s important that school staff are informed and up to date and parents should ensure their child’s written Asthma Action Plan is ready for the return to school,” he said.  

Asthma has a significant impact on Australian children and our hospital system: 

  • More than 460,000 Australians under the age of 15 had asthma in 2017-18 (10.1%).5 
  • Of these, over 17,000 were hospitalised for asthma, and 44% did NOT have a written Asthma Action Plan. 6, 2 
  • 2018-2019 asthma cost GP (general practitioners) services $148.4 million and cost Public Hospital Emergency Departments $80.9 million.7 
  • 42% of Australians aged 0-14 had to take time off school in 2014/15 due to their asthma.8 
  • More boys than girls aged 0-14 are hospitalised for asthma.6 

Each January, Asthma Australia launches its annual ’Back to School’ campaign, a key health promotion campaign to help protect kids from getting asthma attacks at this important time of year.  

Asthma Australia has an ambitious goal to halve avoidable hospital presentations for asthma by 2030 and is beginning a particular focus on preventable hospitalisations in children aged 5-9.  

Of the 39,000 asthma hospitalisations, on average every year, between 2016-17 and 2018-19, more than 40% were in children aged 0-14.5 Among school aged children, most of these are thought to be preventable through appropriate management and care in the school and primary health settings.  

For medical advice on how to best treat and manage their child’s asthma, parents should speak to their family doctor. 

For more information, interviews and case studies please contact: 

Corrine Barraclough, Media & PR Manager, 0435 346822 

Data sources: 

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022, Australian Burden of Disease Study 2022, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Canberra  
  2. Australian Government Productivity Commission (AGPC) 2020, Report on Government Services. 
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019, Asthma Snapshot. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare): Canberra. 
  4. Australian Government Productivity Commission (AGPC) 2020, Report on Government Services. 
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018; National Health Survey: First Results 2017-18. Canberra: ABS. 
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Principal diagnosis data cubes. Separation statistics by principal diagnosis, 2018-19, 2017-18, 2016-17. AIHW: Canberra. 
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022. Disease expenditure in Australia 2019-20. Canberra: AIHW. 
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions Australia 2014-15. Canberra: ABS (Australia Bureau of Statistics).