This has been another challenging year for people with asthma and their carers.
The enduring and evolving impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in disrupted health routines and created additional hurdles for people living with chronic conditions.
Access to medication and healthcare key concern
We heard about challenges breathing with a mask, and the stigma of the asthma cough amid high alert for COVID-19 symptoms, as well as the fear of COVID-19 infection.
Throughout 2020/2021, we continued to focus on bringing the voice of people with asthma and their carers to the fore. Our Covid Healthcare Survey revealed people with asthma found it difficult to access healthcare or were turned away by healthcare providers due to the similarities between asthma and COVID-19 symptoms – including coughing and shortness of breath.
Almost half of our survey respondents shared that they put off healthcare due to COVID-related barriers. One in three respondents said they had delayed care for the same reasons. We raised these issues at the highest levels of government.
Amid strong initial concern about the impact of the novel coronavirus on people with lung conditions such as asthma, we funded research through our National Asthma Research Program and partnered with The George Institute for Global Health to find out if people with asthma were more at risk.
The findings enabled us and to reassure people that there was no elevated risk of death or hospitalisation from COVID-19 for people with asthma.
Models of care, optimising asthma awareness and education
Our Culture Well project proved a success, highlighting the critical importance of the social determinants of health in the Samoan, Vietnamese and Arabic-speaking communities that were involved.
Separately, our Implementing Community Responses to Asthma in the Mid-North (ICRA) project in South Australia engaged a community navigator to create a peer-led response to asthma management that is working to address stigma and preventable asthma episodes.
This year, we have taken major strides to develop a national campaign for air quality awareness and education. The AirSmart campaign was born from the feedback from people with asthma during and after the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires, and how it impacted all areas of their lives. Despite heeding the public health advice, people told us it didn’t always help. That they felt trapped, helpless and worried.
AirSmart is about helping to equip people to understand when air quality is poor and give them tools and strategies to help avoid and minimise exposure. Along with supporting recommendations from the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and Royal Commission for this type of campaign, we recognised that in the COVID-19-dominated environment, it was up to us to take a leadership role to ensure greater resilience for our community. We will begin a roll out of this campaign in regional New South Wales and Victoria in 2022.
Asthma Australia outlook and future goals
We have set ourselves a bold goal to halve the number of avoidable hospitalisations due to asthma by 2030. As we move into our next strategic plan, collaboration and leveraging the knowledge, experience and networks of others is going to be increasingly important. As is influencing change across the broader system to improve the lives of people with asthma.
In the year ahead, we will continue to address the social and environmental factors that contribute to the development and deterioration of asthma.
And on a final note, our work is shaped by the invaluable feedback and input we receive from you.
We’d like thank you, our community for your ongoing participation that allows us to prioritise and implement customer-centric outcomes and move closer to helping people with asthma live freely. To view some of these achievements, we invite you to read our 2020/2021 Annual Report.