Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways causing reversible restriction of air flow to the lungs.  New Zealand has one of the highest rates of astham in the world, making it a major health problem which affects between 15%-20% of children and adults.  Māori and Pacific children are most affected with significantly higher rates of hospital admissions than European children.  In Canterbury, the prevalence of adult asthma is similar to the national rate (11.2% and 11.4% respectively).

Possible contributing factors to developing asthma include:

  • diet
  • climate
  • immunisation rates
  • economic conditions
  • community health care standards
  • antibiotic use in early childhood
  • timing and number of respiratory infections in early life.

The number of people with asthma has risen in New Zealand over a relatively short time. Current attention is focused on environmental factors, such as indoor and outdoor allergen exposure and infections.  Evidence is growing that asthma can be aggravated or triggered by a poor indoor environment such as cold homes, damp and mould, and pollutants.  People living in warmer homes require fewer GP visits, hospital admissions and sick days off work and school.  Installing insulation in New Zealand homes can significantly reduce respiratory illnesses.

Read the full issue summary for asthma [PDF] - updated May 2013.