The Asthma Society of Ireland has launched Stopping Asthma Deaths in Ireland, the organisation’s new 2020-2025 strategic plan, which commits to bringing an end to asthma deaths by 2030. Some 380,000 people currently have asthma in Ireland. At least one person with asthma dies every week in Ireland due to the disease, with an estimated 90 per cent of these deaths believed to be preventable.

Ms Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “The core focus of our work until 2030 will be eradicating asthma deaths. While we do know that the vast majority of asthma deaths are preventable in Ireland, there is not sufficient data to precisely identify what is causing them. This leaves healthcare planners uninformed and patients at unnecessarily high risk. It is critical that the Minister for Health commits to conducting a comprehensive investigation into asthma deaths and to publishing a plan to drastically reduce asthma deaths in Ireland.”

The new strategic plan for the organisation brings together its health promotion, education, advocacy, awareness and fundraising functions to deliver the best services possible for asthma patients.

Ms O’Connor continued: “We know that asthma can be mistakenly considered — including by some patients and medical professionals — a ‘harmless’ condition experienced in early childhood. Although asthma can be easily managed for many people living with the disease, it can severely impede patients’ physical, mental and financial wellbeing and, without proper treatment, can — and at times, does — prove fatal.

“Without access to specialist care, regular medical reviews and tailored self-management plans, improved prescription protocols and access to life-changing medications, people with asthma will continue to die.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the Asthma Society considers its work to be more critical than ever.  

Ms O’Connor, concluded: “The Asthma Society’s work has become more important than ever in recent weeks, given that a reported 10 per cent of those needing intensive care due to coronavirus have asthma as an underlying illness and a further 22 per cent having another chronic respiratory illness. In March and April alone, we fielded 2,251 support calls and queries (up from 293 in the same period in 2019); 1,031 appointments were made with our specialist Asthma and COPD Adviceline nurses (up from 489 in the same period in 2019), and 12,810 Asthma Action Plans — a crucial element of effective asthma self-management — were downloaded from our website (up from 356 in the same period in 2019). Our website visitors have increased 611 per cent to 470,000 over March/April 2020 (up from 66,619 in 2019). We have redeployed five staff, recruited four additional staff members and doubled our nurse hours to field the surge in calls from concerned patients and their carers.”

The five-year strategy, Stopping Asthma Deaths in Ireland, can be viewed and downloaded from asthma.ie. The strategy was developed on foot of engagement with patients and healthcare professionals through focus groups, surveys, one-to-one meetings and at key events, and the Asthma Society has said it welcomes feedback on its strategy.