According to a recent report by the Global Initiative for
Asthma (GINA), South Africa has the world’s fourth highest asthma death rate
among five to 35 year olds. Of the
estimated 3.9 million South Africans with asthma, 1.5% die of this condition
The disease is characterised by varying degrees of severity
of airflow limitation and chronic inflammation of the lungs. Symptoms include
wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.
“Asthma prevalence in Southern Africa is higher than any
other area on the continent, with more than 20% of school children across the
region suffering from this condition. In South Africa asthma is the third most
common cause of hospital admissions of children, yet only 2% of asthmatics
receive treatment,” says Cipla Medpro Medical Director, Dr Nic de Jongh.
To address this problem, Cipla Medpro recently launched its
Asthma Education initiative, Breathe Free. The initiative, which follows the
asthma treatment guidelines as set out by GINA and other reputable bodies, will
serve to educate South Africans on this condition which affects more than 300
million people worldwide. Breathe Free clinics will be accessible at healthcare
facilities and pharmacies nationwide.
Pulmonologist, Dr Justus Kilian says the high death rate of
asthma sufferers in South Africa is likely to re?ect the living conditions
conducive to asthma aggravation. He says that the socio-economic disparity in
access to quality healthcare may also be one of the reasons affecting asthma
diagnosis and treatment.
“Asthma diagnosis and treatment is often inadequate,
especially because there are many misconceptions about the disease and how it
should be treated, one being that asthmatics usually outgrow the disease,
however, asthmatic triggers can occur only later in life.
Educating the public
and patients will certainly encourage the adherence to action plans, which will
lead to reporting of symptoms long before an emergency situation will develop,”
cause of the condition
Kilian notes that it is important to understand the cause of
the condition. “Asthma is a form of bronchitis caused by an allergic
inflammation, which means that the bronchi and the lower airways of the
respiratory system become inflamed to irritants and allergens. This response to irritants and allergens,
which are largely influenced by genetics, can be triggered by environmental
conditions, like pet dander, pollens, fungal spores, air pollution; and occupational
exposures, such as spray painting.”
Through the Breathe Free initiative, individuals will be
able to visit or be referred by their doctor to Breathe Free centres where
healthcare staff will educate and advise patients on their condition; address
symptoms and causes; teach the correct technique to use an asthma device and
offer an asthma screening facility
“The burden of this disease on governments, healthcare
systems and families is increasing worldwide, especially in South Africa. Yet, people with asthma can lead normal lives
today without having to compromise their lifestyle. This campaign aims to
educate and show individuals and families facing this problem that this is
possible,” concludes Dr de Jongh.
Visit the Breathe Free website to locate your nearest centre.