A national asthma campaign and adrenalin devices are on the wish lists for asthma and allergy communities.
Australia’s allergy and respiratory peak bodies have welcomed the new Anthony Albanese-led federal government and have some major priorities for which they will be seeking support.
Among those is a bold new pilot program Asthma Australia hopes will lead to a national rollout.
Dubbed AirSmart, the initiative aims to replicate the success of SunSmart, which has been running in Australia since 1988 and is recognised as one of the most enduring and successful skin-cancer-prevention programs in the world.
Angela Cartwright, Asthma Australia’s policy and advocacy manager, told Allergy and Respiratory Republic the six-week pilot would run in regional NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
The pilot would include a smart app that would link to a website that provided a series of health promotion information and what people needed to do in response to whatever the air quality is.
“The initial focus will be on people with asthma, but we anticipate that AirSmart will become a campaign for all Australians, whether it’s someone with one of those other vulnerabilities, or people living in different areas who have different sources of air pollution,” Ms Cartwright said.
“We really hope that it will be a campaign that can meet the needs of everyone, and it is actually a recommendation of the bushfires royal commission that did recognise the need for better public education around air pollution.”
Ms Cartwright paid tribute to the outgoing federal health minister, Greg Hunt, whom she said had shown a strong commitment to Australians with asthma.
“We also have had really productive conversations with members of the shadow ministry in the last parliament [now the new government], and we are excited to see what the agenda looks like,” she said.
“We are excited about the commitments when it comes to climate change and there’s been a lot of talk around investment in primary health with the 10-year plan, which could be a really big improvement for people with asthma, particularly those who are currently underserved, such as people in regional, rural and remote areas who might struggle to get that continuity of care to manage their asthma.”
Climate change was a big issue for people with asthma, she said – heat brought bushfires, drought brought dust storms, heavy rain and floods brought mould and poor air quality, while increased pollen levels exacerbated breathing and allergy problems.
“And we expect there will be increased incidences of thunderstorm asthma, which, as we know, killed a number of people in Melbourne a few years ago, which is just tragic,” Ms Cartwright added.
She said Asthma Australia had introduced the AirSmart initiative to the government when it was in opposition and received a positive response.
“They’ve indicated they are really interested to hear more about it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Maria Said, co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy and CEO of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, said there were plenty of items on the agenda for Australians with allergic disease.
“What’s progressing from an allergy perspective was bipartisan, so we’re very grateful to the outgoing government and we look forward to working with the new government on improving care for people with allergic disease,” she told ARR.
“We will be receiving funding [from 1 July] over four years to transition the National Allergy Strategy into a National Allergy Council, and to keep progressing with the gaps in care of people with allergic disease.
“We’re looking at improving education of health professionals so that there’s more of a shared-care approach to the management of allergic disease, and we need to continue to educate people in the community about management and about treatment.”
Also high on the list of priorities for discussion with the government will be the provision of more types of adrenalin injector devices in Australia.
Until the approval of Anapens in Australia last year, the only approved adrenalin injector in Australia was the EpiPen.
Ms Said said Australia had historically struggled with stock shortages and short-dated EpiPens, so having another device was a step forward. However, she said, Australia could still benefit from having more devices available, and there needed to be more public education around the various devices.
“Currently we have a big problem with substitution of devices because we have some pharmacists substituting devices without education of the person,” she said.
“And there is some misinformation too with people thinking the Anapen is a generic EpiPen, which it’s not – they are two completely different devices that are used differently.”