Do not ignore your asthma

Tuyeimo Haidula, CNS Correspondent, Namibia
Despite the fact that asthma affects over 300 million people globally, very little attention is given to this chronic and persistent disease. Speaking during a webinar organized by Citizen News Service and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), Jeremiah Chakaya, of Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) lamented that asthma is under diagnosed all over the world, and not just in poor countries, and when it is diagnosed it is under treated.

“Because it does not kill as many as other diseases, there is a tendency to either ignore or neglect it,” he said. Chakaya noted that apart from posing an economic burden, asthma has psychological as well as physical consequences. “Asthma does not know social and economic boundaries. Yet its consequences are magnified in the poor and vulnerable. It is a double tragedy for them because they are unable to cope with the severity of the disease.,” Chakaya said. He recommended ways of managing it by taking a good clinical history of the patient, performing a simple test to assess function of the lungs and severity of the disease and then putting patients on appropriate treatment. “It is very important to work with patients to prevent asthma attacks in the future. The goal is to improve access to cost effective and quality asthma care for all people with it, including the poor and most vulnerable,” he asserted.

Professor Surya Kant, President of the National Indian Chest Society, and Head of the Respiratory Medicine Department at King George Medical University defined asthma as a heterogeneous disease, usually characterized by chronic airway inflammation. Kant said that India has an estimated 30 million people living with asthma and it is a cause of school and work absence. Also, health care expenditure on asthma is very high. He said triggers of asthma are both outdoor and indoor allergens that include dust, cigarette and bio mass fuel smoke, change of season/temperature, physical exercise, emotional upsets, workplace exposure and insecticides. “Patient education on asthma must be a part and parcel of asthma management. Physicians must explain proper technique of inhalation. Before advising inhaled asthma therapy, you must convince the patient, and also emphasize that compliance and adherence to inhaled therapy can keep asthma well controlled,” Kant said, adding that inhaled therapy is the best therapy of asthma amongst all available options and awareness about this must be created in doctors as well as patients.

Looking at asthma in the context of the sustainable development goals 2030 (SDGs), Priya Kanayson, advocacy officer at the NCD Alliance said that air pollution is a leading cause of asthma and other non communicable diseases. Kanayson said that the current energy use of fossil fuels and rapid urbanization is linked to the rising asthma rates. Kanayson said one should promote and protect local sustainable food systems and global dietary transition. She said key areas for intervention include reducing indoor air pollution and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

Tuyeimo Haidula, Citizen News Service - CNS
May 4, 2016