21 September 2020

New funding helps locals tackle high asthma risk in their regional South Australian communities

New project funding is enabling locals from the small towns of Peterborough, Jamestown and Orroroo in regional South Australia to lower their high risk of asthma attacks, under a unique community-driven program led by Asthma Australia.

The project has aimed to understand why asthma hospitalisations are sitting 45 per cent higher than the national average in these small communities, and to seek grassroots solutions to help locals breathe better.

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said the early work of the project enabled Asthma Australia to understand the community and barriers to better asthma management they are facing.

“Asthma is a serious breathing condition and sadly, it’s having a disproportionate impact on health and wellbeing of people living in these communities.

“We’ve sought to understand why this is the case, and to facilitate solutions to turn this around,” Ms Goldman said.

Thanks to funding from Country SA PHN, the project titled the Implementing Community Responses to Asthma in the Mid North will work to lift the issue of asthma in the community, which in the past has often been hidden by sufferers.

The initial project (phase one), enabled Asthma Australia to join forces with the Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), specialists at finding social solutions to health.

To explore the issue, three local people with asthma were employed and trained by TACSI to investigate within their community and with local health professionals what the gaps were in treating asthma, and what it is like to live with asthma in the Mid North of South Australia.

TACSI CEO Carolyn Curtis said the community researchers had revealed surprising results.

“The biggest cause behind high hospital admissions out there is that people aren’t talking about or seeking preventative help for their asthma, even though it’s clearly having a massive impact on them,” Ms Curtis said.

Together the community developed solutions that Asthma Australia will trial in the upcoming implementation phase.

These solutions aim to build the capacity of people with asthma to accept and manage their condition by improving access to appropriate and localised asthma information and services – an Asthma Advocacy Guide – and by accessing a Community Connector.

The Community Connector will facilitate relationships between health care providers and local people with asthma and their families to improve asthma care and understanding.

Local Peterborough resident and peer researcher in phase one of the project, 44-year-old Anita Stewart, said it was a ray of hope for the local asthma community.

“The project has really opened up dialogue around asthma, which has been really uplifting.  So far, it’s been invaluable to me and the community of Peterborough,” Ms Stewart said.

“We bought people’s experiences and innovative ideas together to find a way that works for us.”

One in five Mid North locals have asthma, which is remarkably high compared to the national average of one in nine.

“Even though asthma prevalence poses a challenge here, asthma is a condition that can be well managed with the right access to information, ongoing support, lifestyle choices and medication,” Ms Goldman said.

“A trip to hospital usually involves a quite frightening asthma attack, which can be life threatening at any age, especially considering up to 80 per cent of these can be avoided.”

Funding partner Country SA PHN is pleased with the project and is encouraging local health care professionals and people with asthma symptoms to seek it out.

“Grass roots, tailored, community-driven projects like this exemplify our aim to improve primary health care for rural South Australians,” Country SA PHN CEO Kim Hosking said.

“Country SA PHN is proud to fund and support this collaborative and innovative project which will help to provide real solutions for people living with asthma in the Mid North.”

If you need help with your asthma, please call 1800 ASTHMA or for more information visit www.asthma.org.au