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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Asthma. Cat. no. ACM 33. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 08 August 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/asthma
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Asthma. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/asthma
Asthma. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 30 August 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/asthma
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Asthma [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2020 Aug. 8]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/asthma
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Asthma, viewed 8 August 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/asthma
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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. People with asthma experience episodes of wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness due to widespread narrowing of the airways.
1 in 9 Australians had asthma in 2017–18 that had been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse based on self-reported survey data
Around 1 in 4 aged 15 and over with asthma had a written asthma action plan, based on 2017–18 self-reported survey data
441 deaths were due to asthma in 2017
General practitioners (GPs) play a central role in the management of asthma in the community. This role includes assessment, diagnosis, prescription of regular medications, education, provision of written action plans, and regular review as well as managing asthma flare-ups. Asthma-related visits to GPs may occur for a variety of reasons, including:
A survey in 2012 of 2,686 Australians aged 16 and older with current asthma identified that almost a quarter of participants (23%) had visited a general practitioner urgently about asthma at least once during the previous year, and 10% had attended a hospital or emergency department one or more times, with, in total, 29% reporting an urgent visit .
According to the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey, asthma was one of the most frequently managed chronic problems in the decade up to 2015–16 . In the ten year period 2006–07 to 2015–16, the estimated rate of asthma management in general practice declined from 2.3 in 100 encounters to 2.0 in 100 encounters (Figure 1). It is worth noting that there is currently no nationally consistent primary health care data collection to monitor provision of care by GPs.
Source:  (Data table).
Many people with asthma do not have a current written asthma action plan. A written asthma action plan, prepared for patients with asthma by a health care professional, can help people with asthma to manage their condition and reduce the severity of acute asthma flare-ups.
Asthma action plans have formed part of the National Asthma Council Australia’s guidelines for the management of asthma for 29 years  and have been promoted in public education campaigns (including by the National Asthma Council Australia) on the basis that individualised written action plans improve asthma health outcomes .
In 2017–18, an estimated 839,000 (31%) people with asthma across all ages had a written asthma action plan  despite the recommendations that every person with asthma have an asthma action plan (for more information see Australian Asthma Handbook – written asthma action plans). Twenty four per cent of people aged 15 years and over with asthma had an asthma action plan, while 67% of children aged 0–14 with asthma had an asthma action plan (Figure 2). Compared with the other age groups, children aged 0–14 were the most likely to have a written asthma action plan.
Note: Refers to people who self-reported that they were diagnosed by a doctor or nurse as having asthma (current and long-term).
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019  (Data table).
Use of medicines is the mainstay of asthma management. In 2017–18, based on self-reported survey data, 33% of Australians with asthma had taken a respiratory medicine in the last 2 weeks . These medicines may have been used to treat asthma or another respiratory condition, as most of the medicines used for asthma are also used for patients with other chronic lung diseases, in particular chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The overall goals of using medications to treat asthma are to:
Different asthma medicines are used to achieve these goals, as follows:
There are clinical guidelines to help doctors and patients to best manage asthma. These guidelines include recommendations for effective use of medications.
For more detailed information about medicines used to treat asthma, refer to the Australian Asthma Handbook, Version 2.0, which provides Australia’s national guidelines for asthma management , Respiratory medication use in Australia 2003–2013: treatment of asthma and COPD , and Asthma in Australia 2011 .
People with asthma require admission to hospital when flare ups or ‘attacks’ are potentially life-threatening or when they cannot be managed at home or by a GP. Data from the AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) show that in 2016–17, there were 41,871 hospitalisations where asthma was the principal diagnosis. The rate of hospitalisations for asthma was 174 per 100,000 population. The rate among children aged 0–14 (416 per 100,000 population) was markedly higher than the rate among people aged 15 and over (112 per 100,000 population).
Over the 10 years to 2016–17, the age-standardised rate of hospitalisations for asthma for children aged 0–14 decreased overall, falling from 519 to 416 per 100,000 population. Over the same period, the age-standardised rate of hospitalisations for asthma for those aged 15 and over fluctuated between 87 and 112 per 100,000 population. The rate of 112 per 100,000 population is the highest for this age group over the previous 10 years.
Hospitalisation rates differ by sex and age (Figure 3). In 2016–17, boys aged 0–14 were 1.7 times as likely as girls of the same age to be admitted to hospital for asthma; conversely, of those aged 15 and over, females were 2.3 times as likely as males to be admitted to hospital for asthma. These differences in hospitalisation by sex and age reflect in part the difference in the prevalence of asthma—which is more common in boys than girls for those under 15, and generally more common in females than in males for those over 25. See Prevalence by age and sex.
Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Standard Population.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (Data table).
Among children, the peaks for asthma hospitalisations occur in late summer (February) and autumn (May) (Figure 4). The peak in February is likely related to respiratory infections associated with returns to school and childcare after the summer break. This has been found during similar peaks in September in Northern Hemisphere countries; lower use of preventer medication during holidays may also contribute.
Among adults, hospitalisations for asthma are highest in winter and early spring (June through to September), particularly in people aged 65 years and older (Figure 5). This coincides with the annual winter ‘flu’ season and may reflect the rise in respiratory infections observed then.
Note: Data reported by period of admission. Hospitalisations per week for 2016. Only full weeks are shown.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (Data table).
While most hospitalisations (all causes) in 2016–17 were for older people, 47% of the 41,871 hospitalisations for asthma in Australia were for children aged 0–14 (Figure 6). The age profile was much younger compared to all hospitalisations in the same year.
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