Fidelma Carter, head of Public Health at NICHS said; “The fact two out of three asthma deaths are preventable is unacceptable. Through our new asthma awareness campaign, we want to help prevent future asthma deaths, make people think twice about asthma, as well as take their inhalers properly. This means taking their preventer inhaler daily and ensuring they carry their reliever inhaler with them at all times.”
She added: “Alarmingly, only 30 per cent of asthma patients know how to use their inhaler properly. Furthermore, only 15 per cent of health care professionals are educated on correct inhaler use which means they are not passing on the right techniques to patients. This situation needs to change as the blunt fact is asthma can be fatal and it is vital everyone with asthma is empowered and educated with the knowledge and skills on how to use inhalers correctly to help prevent unnecessary attacks and deaths.”
In 2017, the last year for which figures are available, 38 people in Northern Ireland died from asthma.
Fidelma continued: “We know some people are not taking their brown preventer inhaler everyday which is crucial as this builds up protection in the airways over time to help prevent asthma attacks. We also know people are not carrying their blue reliever inhaler with them which means if they have an attack they are without the lifeline they need. Others think they do not have asthma anymore and mistakenly stop their treatment without consulting their healthcare professional. These are all behaviours which we want to try and change through our asthma awareness campaign.”
A 2019 analysis of 19 high-income countries found that death rates for asthma in 10 to 24-year-olds, among all 14 European nations included, was highest in the UK.
Fidelma added: “Our campaign has been developed in conjunction with our Asthma Partnership Group which includes leading asthma healthcare professionals in response to community needs and the shocking asthma statistics, and includes extensive outdoor, digital and radio advertising as well as a range of educational materials to spread awareness of asthma and how serious it can be.
“To engage children, we have developed superhero characters, Peter the Preventer and Raya the Reliever. The aim is to show children their inhalers are actually their superpower and give them the ability to play, join in and have fun.”