The National Asthma Strategy launched this week outlines a targeted approach for asthma care with a focus on children, and signals an increased role for pharmacists
The National Asthma Council Australia has released its strategy for the new year, to address the impact of asthma as one of Australia’s most widespread chronic health conditions.
Health Minister Greg Hunt launched the strategy on Wednesday, while announcing a further $1 million in government funding for an asthma support program in schools.
The National Asthma Strategy 2018 focuses on improving asthma control, and explores new approaches to predict and manage public health advice and treatment in response to environmental risks, including thunderstorms.
It also aims to strengthen the evidence base for asthma prevention, saying there is currently no reliable evidence for effective interventions to prevent the onset of asthma (primary prevention).
One in nine Australians report having asthma, according to the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
This equates to around 2.5 million Australians (11% of the total population), based on self-reported data from the 2014–15.
About 421 deaths in 2015 alone were due to asthma.
Children account for the majority of hospitalisations due to asthma, with more than half of the almost 40,000 hospitalisations being for children aged zero to 14.
The $1 million in government funding will go towards the Asthma in School program, supporting face-to-face training for teachers and information for young people and promotion of an asthma management app.
It will also go towards development of best practice guidelines for care and support for young asthma suffers in schools across all states and territories.
Pharmacists have been signalled as key players in the management of asthma in the community.
“Pharmacists, particularly through community pharmacy, play an important role in providing advice and support for self-management practices,” reads the Strategy.
“The potential for pharmacists to play increased role in asthma care is currently being explored in local pilot projects as part of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement.”
It adds that there should be continued delivery of evidence-based workshops on asthma management and lung function testing to all healthcare workers including pharmacists.
The Strategy was informed by an expert advisory group and is the result of extensive consultation, including pharmacy groups.
PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson says his organisation valued the opportunity to contribute to the Strategy.
“PSA applauds the Health Minister for launching this new plan, which is strongly supported by Australia’s pharmacy profession,” says Dr Jackson.
“PSA supports the objectives of self-management, best practice asthma care, integration of the health system, supportive community environments, and improved research, evidence and data.”
In areas such as self-management, pharmacists play a key role in supporting patients to manage their asthma in an optimal way, he says.
Awareness campaigns can also be undertaken at community pharmacies to enhance self-management activities.
“Pharmacists are well placed to identify gaps in the care of patients with asthma and then support them to have appropriate therapy instituted,” says Dr Jackson.
“Developing new and innovative roles for pharmacists in the delivery of asthma care to close the gap between the best available evidence and clinical practice should be a high priority.”
PSA also collaborated with the National Asthma Council in 2017 to deliver education and practice resources on thunderstorm asthma to raise awareness of this important health topic in the pharmacy sector.