The Asthma Society of Ireland has launched a new five-year strategic plan, which aims to stop asthma deaths by 2030.
The 2020-2025 plan, Stopping Asthma Deaths in Ireland, is "intentionally ambitious", according to the society's CEO, Sarah O'Connor.
Currently in Ireland, around 380,000 people have asthma and at least one person dies every week here as a result of the condition. An estimated 90% of these deaths are thought to be preventable.
"The core focus of our work until 2030 will be eradicating asthma deaths. While we do know that the vast majority of asthma deaths are preventable in Ireland, there is not sufficient data to precisely identify what is causing them.
"This leaves healthcare planners uninformed and patients at unnecessarily high risk. It is critical that the Minister for Health commits to conducting a comprehensive investigation into asthma deaths and to publishing a plan to drastically reduce asthma deaths in Ireland," Ms O'Connor said.
The new strategic plan brings together the society's health promotion, education, advocacy, awareness and fundraising functions, in order to deliver the best services possible to those with asthma.
"We know that asthma can be mistakenly considered, including by some patients and medical professionals, a harmless condition experienced in early childhood. Although asthma can be easily managed for many people living with the disease, it can severely impede patients' physical, mental and financial wellbeing and, without proper treatment, can, and at times does, prove fatal," Ms O'Connor noted.
She insisted that without access to specialist care, regular medical reviews, tailored self-management plans, improved prescription protocols and access to life-changing medications, "people with asthma will continue to die".
The society is calling on the incoming government to commit to a national review of asthma deaths in its programme for government.
Meanwhile, according to Ms O'Connor, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the society considers its work to be more important than ever, given that a reported 10% of those needing intensive care as a result of the virus, have asthma, while a further 22% have another chronic respiratory illness.
"In March and April alone, we fielded 2,251 support calls and queries (up from 293 in the same period in 2019), 1,031 appointments were made with our specialist asthma and COPD adviceline nurses (up from 489 in the same period in 2019) and 12,810 Asthma Action Plans were downloaded from our website (up from 356 in the same period in 2019).
"Our website visitors have increased 611% to 470,000 over March/April 2020. We have redeployed five staff, recruited four additional staff members and doubled our nurse hours to field the surge in calls from concerned patients and their carers," Ms O'Connor pointed out.
The society also recently launched its new Beating Breathlessness service, which allows people to WhatsApp specialist respiratory nurses about their asthma or COPD concerns. The number for this service is 086 059 0132.
"We could not be prouder of the work we are undertaking to help vulnerable patients during the pandemic. We are seeing its impact every day. We are keeping patients safe and well at home," Ms O'Connor added.
The five-year strategy can be viewed here. For more information on the Asthma Society, click here.
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