The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is calling for a government target to be set across health, housing and social portfolios to reduce emergency visits for acute respiratory illness.

The Foundation was responding to today’s New Zealand Herald report linking cold, damp and overcrowded homes with 30,000 children being hospitalised each year with housing-related diseases, including asthma, bronchiolitis and the third-world disease bronchiectasis that should be confined to people in their 80s.

Letitia O’Dwyer, Chief Executive of the Foundation, said currently reducing respiratory disease was not a Ministry of Health, district health board or “even a primary health organisation” target but the Foundation advocated that the next government should ensure a cross-portfolio target was set to help break down silos between health, housing, education and other related portfolios.

The cross-portfolio target it wanted acted on was: “Reduce emergency visits for acute respiratory illnesses by 20 per cent within the next five years”.

“It’s obvious that one organisation or agency cannot act alone to address poverty, unhealthy housing and inadequate basic health care,” said O’Dwyer. “There is a strong need for a government approach that ‘sees the bigger picture’ and works across all areas focusing on prevention.”

At present the Foundation was working with a healthcare provider in South Auckland to deliver respiratory health ‘action plans’ to schools in the area, with the aim of reducing the “disproportionate hospitalisation rates” of the people most at risk, said O’Dwyer.

The Foundation said its proposed national target should go across all of the following portfolios:

  • Health
  • Māori Development
  • Pacific Peoples
  • Social Housing
  • Education
  • Social Development
  • Social Investment
  • Whānau Ora



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