According to the Public Health Information Development Unit, 2018, 13% of South Australians have asthma, which is higher than the national average. In Peterborough, South Australia (SA) and surrounds, 1 in 5 people in 2018 had asthma, which increased by 7% from 2016. Admissions to hospitals due to asthma in the Mid North are 45% higher than the SA average and are the highest figures in the country.
Asthma Australia joined forces with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), funded by the Country SA PHN to create the Community responses to asthma in Mid North South Australia project, in Peterborough, Orroroo, Jamestown and surrounds in Mid North, South Australia between January and June 2020.
The aim of the project was to understand and test how preventable, asthma-related hospital admissions can be reduced. A key objective was that local people living with asthma were partners in the project.
The project brought together local people with asthma, their families and the health professionals who care for them. Three local champions with asthma became advocates for best possible asthma care in their community. These ‘peer researchers’ were trained by TACSI and interviewed other community members with asthma and their families to inform us about the local issues impacting on asthma care.
Together, the peer researchers, other people living in the Mid North who have asthma, and key stakeholders like general practitioners and pharmacists identified potential solutions that could be implemented in the community. As a result, several key concepts were developed, discussed and explored for feasibility.
The two concepts – possible solutions to asthma in the Mid North
The two concepts that evolved as the most relevant and feasible, were the Asthma Advocacy Guides and the Community Connector.
Asthma Advocacy Guides
This concept will engage people with asthma with evidence-based conversations through an online or in-person organised community group and provide navigation tools on how to access the best support for asthma care in the region.
The Community Connector
This concept translated into a new role designed to facilitate greater access to asthma support, advocate for community needs, and to facilitate the relationship between healthcare providers and community members. It is a person with lived experience of asthma who will be employed to act as a friendly bridge between the community and healthcare professionals and other healthcare supports.
Asthma Australia has once again been funded by Country SA PHN to progress the project. Local Project Support officers and community leaders have re-engaged with the project and are working on developing the two concepts identified in phase 1, ready to trial in early 2021.
Asthma Australia is also working with other regional and remote funding bodies in South Australia to ensure sustainability of the project in the future.
Asthma Australia and Country SA PHN believe that community development approaches like this will help people become better partners in their own care, while building a community that is both aware and capable of supporting people with asthma.
Local resident, Anita Stewart, was appointed in April 2021 as the Asthma Community Connector. This role is a result of extensive community engagement which led to the community identifying and developing the role description of a person with asthma to be a local support and provide some training and resources to people with asthma.
If you are interested in the project or would like more information, please contact Michelle Davis, Projects and Partnerships Officer, Asthma Australia, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0481 172 911
If you live in Mid North SA please join us to start the conversation about asthma https://www.facebook.com/groups/asthmamidnorth.