Thousands of Canadians live with poorly managed asthma because they underestimate the severity of their asthma. This is the main finding from the Asthma Action Study, commissioned by the Asthma Society of Canada. Conducted in March 2005, this study found that two-thirds of survey respondents have symptoms weekly and a third suffer daily. In addition, several survey respondents noted that symptoms are often so severe they are woken up at night, a sign of poorly controlled asthma.
The Asthma Action Study is one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of severe asthma conducted in Canada. In total, 1000 telephone interviews were conducted with Canadians 18 years of age and older across the country. In general, a sample of this size will provide results accurate to within 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
The Global Burden of Asthma report published by GINA (Global Initiative for Asthma) last World Asthma Day ranked Canada as the fifth highest country for prevalence of asthma among adults. With the knowledge that prevalence rates will continue to rise and the 2005 World Asthma Day theme, "The Unmet Needs of Asthma", the Asthma Society of Canada embarked on this study to determine if there was evidence of unmet needs among Canadians with asthma.
The key findings below provide confirmation that there is indeed
a gap in the asthma care system in Canada and that, for those with
severe asthma, symptoms are having a significant effect on their
quality of life.
Canadians are underestimating the severity of their asthma
Uncontrolled asthma is debilitating and has a significant effect on quality of life
- There is a treatment gap in asthma, one that affects severe asthmatics in particular. Reliever medications -- normally saved for rescue treatment --- are being used chronically by patients, which could lead to injury through long-term inflammation
- Survey suggests that people may feel in control but 'control' translates into using multiple medications, often incorrectly, throughout the day
- Results also found that patients just want their asthma to go away, yet remain complacent about their current therapy. With current therapy, asthma patients are treating symptoms and not addressing the uncontrolled nature of the disease itself
- Few have had a substantive conversation with a healthcare professional about their asthma management, and fewer than half have been tested for allergies
- One reason patients may be using relievers inappropriately is because they perceive that they have had poor results with their controller medications and, in some cases, have lost faith in them. Another reason may be due to lack of medication efficacy. Indeed, patients in the survey showed a preference for a monthly treatment
Asthma is a significant drain on the country's health system and overall economy
- For those with severe asthma, limitations in the efficacy of their therapy can lead to misuse and abuse of medications. The survey points to a need among patients for newer treatment options that are more convenient, and more effective in managing their condition
- While at present, there is no cure for asthma, there are self-management strategies that asthmatics can take to manage their condition. Yet the Asthma Action Study found that those with asthma often are not managing their disease effectively:
- 28% are having symptoms every day; 67% have them every week
- 29% are being woken up at night by their symptoms at least once a week; 6% have symptoms each night
- 10% have been to emergency room in the past year
- 12% reported missing work or school in the past year
Education and communication is critical to asthma control
- 12% of those surveyed contributed to 8,160,000 in lost work days
- 10% of those surveyed had been to the ER in the past year
Call to action
- Only 15% reported that their doctor referred them to an asthma education program
- Only 17% reported that their health care professional had discussed the benefits of a written asthma action plan
- Educate yourself about your asthma, its triggers, medication and action plans
- Discuss alternate treatment options with your health care provider - make sure you are getting the best possible treatment
- Make sure that your asthma is really under control