Lung Foundation Australia is pushing for greater investment in respiratory research to assist the 1 in 3 Australians impacted by lung disease who are being left behind by our government.
Lung Foundation Australia are advocating for investment in respiratory disease research as part of the Lung Health Alliance, alongside Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ), National Asthma Council, Cystic Fibrosis Australia, and Asthma Australia.
Lung disease accounts for 9% of the total disease burden in Australia, impacting not only healthcare utilisation, but also lost quality of life and productivity of individuals, communities, and governments.
Despite this significant burden to Australia, lung disease receives just 2% of research investment – a unacceptably low figure that the Lung Health Alliance is urging the Government to increase.
An initial investment in respiratory health research announced in December last year was a promising start but the Lung Health Alliance is asking the Federal Government to invest a further $200 million over 10 years in a dedicated Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Respiratory Health Mission.
This would bring lung health in line with other missions, such as the Cardiovascular Health Mission which received $220 million over 10 years.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke says a comprehensive, multi-year MRFF Respiratory Health Mission would allow researchers to be bold and change the face of medicine and outcomes for the 7 million Australians who are living with a lung disease.
“Missions allow us to change the current ways of thinking, and this investment would enable key players to work together and exchange insights that lead to better research,” Mr Brooke said.
“The mission would not only position Australia as a global research leader, but also promote new evidence-based approaches to disease management and create jobs and business growth.”
Mother Vanessa Kloeden knows first-hand the importance of research after her 3-year-old son Joshua was diagnosed with bronchiectasis.
“All I wanted to do was focus on being a mum, but I felt like I had to put on a medical hat and learn as much as I could as there was limited information for us,” Mrs Kloeden said.
“It was so scary having to leave hospital with no real idea what to expect. We had to come up with our own management plan and actions, but I still don’t know what the future will hold for Joshua.
“I wish more research was being funded for these debilitating conditions so that I don’t have to watch helplessly as my son struggles to breathe.”
Respiratory research encompasses a range of different diseases including lung cancer, COPD, asthma, bronchiectasis, and cystic fibrosis, and now COVID-19, among others.
TSANZ representative Professor John Upham says that recent years have emphasised how much COVID-19 can affect the lungs.
“People with COVID-19 who need to be admitted to hospital are usually there because they can’t breathe and are desperately short of oxygen, signs that it has caused severe pneumonia. We need to find better ways to treat and prevent lung problems in children, adults and the elderly,” Prof Upham said.
Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said the impact of asthma was increasing yet there was declining investment in asthma research.
“Australia has the highest rate of asthma in all OECD countries and subsequently the poorest performer for asthma related hospitalisations,” Ms Goldman said.
“We should be striving to be a world leader in respiratory disease research, and we risk falling further behind. With diminishing investment, we will lose the capability that has been fostered over the past decades.”
The call for action is a part of a greater campaign by Lung Foundation Australia to strengthen the lung health of Australians in COVID-19 and beyond, with six main recommendations for the Australian Government.
For the full list of priorities visit lungfoundation.com.au/StrongerLungHealth
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