World Asthma Day
World Asthma Day falls on the first Tuesday of May each year. It’s a timely date as May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month so the day acts as a great launching pad for a month of heightened awareness of these common and chronic conditions. This year’s day to celebrate is Tuesday 5th May.
The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) organises the day to promote recognition, education and celebration of asthma awareness and it has become one of the world’s most important asthma awareness and education events in the world. Even in its first year, when it was synchronised with the first World Asthma Meeting in Barcelona, 35 countries became involved.
Health care groups and asthma educators throughout the world help celebrate by various events and making available important and up to date asthma resources. Activities for World Asthma Day include free screenings for asthma, media advertising, talks, education and community and sponsored events such as organized debates and quiz competitions held in school and colleges. Teachers in schools and colleges are encouraged to take classes on asthma and prevention to increase their awareness.
GINA was set up in 1993 in collaboration with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA, and the World Health Organization. Its objectives were clear: to increase asthma awareness, improve asthma management, reduce mortality and morbidity and increase accessibility and availability of effective asthma therapy. It also planned to promote identification of reasons for the increased prevalence of asthma and promote study of the association between asthma and the environment. Leading asthma experts from around the world help shape these strategies and plan their educational programs. GINA also maintains the World Asthma Day Internet Headquarters, where materials and resources are posted for downloading and a complete listing of activities around the world is constantly updated.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs. The airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. It causes recurrent attacks of breathlessness, cough, chest tightness or wheezing which can vary in severity from person to person and can change in severity in any individual over time. Asthma symptoms frequently cause night-time wakening, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels, and school and work absenteeism. It is estimated that between 300 and 400 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, including approximately 24 million in the United States. Asthma affects 14% of all children worldwide, and its prevalence is rising.
The good news is that good asthma control means no or very minimal symptoms and a low risk of asthma attacks. A person whose asthma is under good control can lead a full and normal life, attending school and work, participating in exercise and sports. Some top athletes have a diagnosis of asthma but, as long as they manage it well, they can excel in their field.
However, in many countries, particularly in low and middle-income countries, health systems may not have the capacity to implement existing guidelines, and patients do not have access to affordable, good quality asthma medications. About250,000 people die each year–that is 1,300 deaths every single day. Most of the deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ‘access to safe, effective, quality-assured and affordable essential medicines for all’. Governments of over 190 countries globally have committed to achieve these Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, another of which is to reduce premature mortality due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), asthma being one of them. World Asthma Day is a significant part of the world’s responsibility to achieve these goals.
Since its inception in 1998, World Asthma Day has been assigned a different theme each year. This year, in light of COVID19, GINA has decided to postpone their promotion of World Asthma Day but to help to minimise the impact of COVID19 have stressed how important it is for asthma patients to continue medication use. It is also true to say that because of COVID19, health and air quality has never been so pertinent. This year’s theme is ‘Enough Asthma Deaths’.
Last year’s theme was ‘STOP for Asthma’: Symptom evaluation, test response, observe, assess and proceed to adjust treatment. Check-up camps were set up across the world to diagnose and treat asthma.
In 2018 the theme was ‘Allergy and Asthma’. This theme facilitated education and learning about what these two conditions have in common. Asthma and allergies often occur together. The same allergens that trigger hay fever symptoms may also may also trigger asthma symptoms- dust mites, pollen and pet dander for example. For some people it may be that food allergies cause asthma symptoms. In these types of allergic asthma, avoiding the triggers is the most important step in combating the conditions. Education around healthy homes and indoor air quality is invaluable as by creating a healthy indoor environment free from triggers such as dust mite, VOCs and pet dander the risk of asthma and allergies is reduced.
Though allergic asthma is very common, there are other types of asthma with different kinds of triggers for example, asthma can be triggered by exercise, infections, cold air or stress. For many people there is more than one kind of asthma trigger.
Previous themes for World Asthma Day have been ‘You Can Control Your Asthma’ and ‘Reduce the Burden of Asthma’, which have focused in on how careful management can have a huge effect on the lives of those impacted by the disease.
As individuals, we can promote World Asthma Day by, using social media and the internet to reach out to people who are concerned with asthma and by encouraging family members and friends with the diagnosis to educate themselves fully. It is estimated that only 7% of asthmatics know all the symptoms of an asthma attack. World Asthma Day gives us all an opportunity to change that. Simply spread the word.
About Dr. Anna O’Donovan – Medical & Lifestyle Author
Anna is a mum of three children, one with allergies, and she suffers from allergies and asthma herself. She is a qualified doctor and worked as a General Practitioner and as a dentist for a number of years. She is also an award-winning author.
asthma, World Asthma Day, awareness, indoor air quality, healthy homes, allergies, asthma triggers, asthma education
References and further reading
Global Initiative for Asthma – World Asthma Day Click here
AAFA:May Is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month Click here
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