The Australian Government released its first National Health and Climate Strategy today. Asthma Australia welcomes the Strategy, which commits to supporting healthy, climate-resilient communities as well as a net-zero health system. To support a key action in the strategy, Asthma Australia is convening workshops with healthcare stakeholders to seek consensus on how to reduce emissions
from inhaler use while respecting consumer choice.
The National Health and Climate Strategy states that reducing the health system’s greenhouse emissions will have major health, social, environmental and economic benefits. Healthcare emissions will be reduced through the built environment and facilities, travel and transport, supply chain, waste, and keeping people healthy and out of the healthcare system.
Medicines and gases, which include pressurised metred dose inhalers (pMDIs) that use hydrofluorocarbon propellants, are also included as an action point.
These medicines are prescribed and dispensed to patients to treat respiratory illnesses including asthma and may be the best choice for some people. Fortunately, alternative inhalers with lower emissions are suitable for many people, these include dry powder and soft mist inhalers.
Critically, these options may also result in better asthma management for some people with asthma.
CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman said, “Our primary focus is on ensuring people with asthma have access to the right treatments so they can manage their condition and live their lives to the full.
“We have worked for many years to encourage people to move from relying only on reliever inhalers to incorporating preventers. The added bonus is that many preventer medicines have lower carbon emissions and reduce the need for relievers, most of which are pressurised metred dose inhalers that emit greenhouse gases.
“In other words, we are encouraged by the idea that good quality care can often be synonymous with
low-carbon care. Importantly, consumer choice always has to be at the centre of our discussions
around asthma medicines.
“The workshops bring together key stakeholders to develop a collective response from the sector on transitioning to high quality, low-carbon asthma care in Australia. The outcome will be the production of recommendations that will consolidate ideas and identify priorities to present to government and other implementing stakeholders”.
The National Health and Climate Strategy includes a broad vision that gives voice to the importance of the health and wellbeing of Australians against the impacts of climate change.
Asthma Australia particularly welcomes the recognition in the Strategy of the importance of quality housing to populations vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which reflects the organisation’s recommendation that improving housing conditions should be a priority in the Strategy.
“People increasingly need to shelter from climate change events in their homes, particularly those vulnerable to hazards such as bushfire smoke, including people with asthma. However, we know from Asthma Australia’s research that homes are often not healthy places for people with asthma.”
Asthma Australia has, however, expressed disappointment over the Strategy’s lack of commitment a national air quality education campaign, a need recognised by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements after 80 per cent of the Australian population was exposed to bushfire smoke for extended periods.
Asthma Australia has developed and piloted a national AirSmart campaign to educate the community about air quality and is seeking funding commitment from the Australian Government.
Ms Goldman said, “We were disappointed that the National Health and Climate Strategy does not commit to implementing an air quality education campaign. Asthma Australia has done the hard work to develop a campaign. We are calling for urgent funding from the state, territory and federal governments to invest in the national AirSmart campaign.
“We have already had bushfires across most states and territories this spring, with predictions of a hot, dry summer and potential for further bushfires. We need people to know how to respond to the air quality issues they are facing right now, as well as prepare for future events.
“We can’t wait until we’re in the middle of another major bushfire smoke crisis to start educating the public about how to protect themselves from the damaging effects of poor air quality. We need to start speaking to the community and giving them tools now.”
For more information contact:
Trinity Frederick, 0413 99 22 82
Asthma Australia is the nation’s peak body representing 2.7 million Australians living with asthma. We’ve been here since 1962 and even though a lot has changed since then, asthma continues to claim a life each day and is the number one health condition burdening Aussie children. Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways, restricting airflow and can be fatal. There is no cure, but most
people with asthma can experience good control.