An Australian researcher has found a concerning number of older and frail people are dying of asthma.
Royal District Nursing Service Institute senior research fellow Dr Dianne Goeman has warned asthma deaths are an issue for all health practitioners and called for targeted interventions to reduce the asthma mortality rate.
Dr Goeman, who conducted a study into the circumstances surrounding Australian asthma deaths since 2005 after being awarded an Asthma Foundation of Victoria research grant, said RDNS nurses were at the frontline of home nursing and health care, and able to observe the extent of the problem.
"RDNS has a large number of older clients with asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and are therefore in a unique position to assist their clients to achieve better asthma outcomes," she said.
While asthma deaths have decreased in the past three decades, Dr Goeman said the rate of mortality due to asthma in older people had not dropped as dramatically as it had in younger people.
Asthma deaths in Australia are high compared to international standards. Statistics show 416 Australians died of asthma in 2010 and 411 people died of asthma in 2009, with asthma recorded as an associated cause in another 1,344 deaths.
Dr Goeman said asthma mortality increased with age, with 995 or 64 per cent of asthma deaths between 2005 and 2008 occurring in those aged over 70.
"Asthma is predicted to continue to be a major disease burden in Australia over the next two decades and health care expenditure on asthma, particularly those over 50 years is expected to increase exponentially," she said.
Dr Goeman said people over 65 with asthma also had the second highest presentation rate to emergency departments, after children.
A medical sociologist, Dr Goeman presented the research, the first research on asthma deaths in the country since the late 1990s, at the International Primary Care Respiratory Group Conference in Edinburgh for this year’s World Asthma Day.
Dr Goeman conducted the research with respiratory physicians Associate Professor Jo Douglass, Professor Michael Abramson and Dr Celia Zubrinich from the Alfred Hospital along with research officer Edwina McCarthy.