Asthma treatment, care still expensive

Gugulethu Nyazema, Zimbabwe
(First published in Daily News, Zimbabwe on 7th May 2013): ASTHMA is one of the most common chronic diseases and it is largely treated as private health matter not warranting public attention, said a local health expert, Manikai Nyandoro a local doctor said that asthma is slowing becoming prevalent among children and the chronic disease is treated mostly on an emergency basis. “The percentage of children reported for asthma has been increasing significantly. It is very much linked to the fact that they were not aware of these asthmatic conditions,” he said.

“The large majority of asthma patients are only treated on an emergency basis – when they arrive at a health care facility or hospital with an acute attack of asthma. Part of the problem is that quality-assured asthma inhalers, especially the inhaled corticosteroids that are essential to well-managed asthma, are not available. If they are available, the cost is usually prohibitively expensive.”

Nyandoro said another barrier is that the health services lack the strategy, systems and trained staff for providing good asthma care. “There is a need for the government in Zimbabwe, as in many parts of the developing world, to recognize asthma as a matter warranting attention from public health systems,” he said. “Untreated and poorly managed asthma leads to suffering and diminished lives. It can also cause disabilities and death,” Nyandoro said.

An international health expert, Karen Bissell, Deputy Coordinator, Asthma Drug Facility (ADF), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), stated that the word disability refers to the people who are struggling to breathe. “So, the disability would be breathing difficulties. They can’t breathe properly and that is the difficulty. They go through the struggle and like that too they look after their families,” Bissell said.

According to Global Asthma report of   2012, studies show that lack of accessible, affordable essential asthma medicines is one of the biggest barriers to managing asthma effectively. The report states that poorly managed asthma leads to emergency treatment and hospitalisation – interventions that are much more costly for patients and health systems than effectively managed treatment.

World Health Organisation estimates that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. According to WHO, Asthma is a public health problem not just for high-income countries; it occurs in all countries regardless of the level of development. Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries. Today is World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.

Gugulethu Nyazema, Zimbabwe
Citizen News Service - CNS
(First published in Daily News, Zimbabwe on 7th May 2013)