New program targets Victorian asthma “hot spots”

The National Asthma Council Australia has launched a locally tailored education package Improving Childhood Asthma Management in Inner West Melbourne (Primary Health Care) to tackle the burden of asthma in Melbourne’s inner west.

The online clinical education package has been developed specifically for general practitioners (GPs), practice nurses, pharmacists and allied health providers based in the inner western suburbs, an area that ranks highest in the state for emergency department presentations for asthma and wheeze in paediatric and adolescent patients[i].

A complimentary package, Childhood Asthma Guide for Inner West Melbourne (Schools and Sports Clubs), has been developed to ensure asthma care providers in local education settings and sports clubs are also equipped with the knowledge and tools to provide high-quality asthma care to children and adolescents.

Narelle Williamson, Senior Clinical Consultant at the National Asthma Council, said best-practice asthma care should be a health priority for all primary health care professionals in Melbourne’s inner west.

“For every age group in the zero to 19-year age range, children and adolescents from the inner west present to hospitals for asthma and wheeze at higher rates than the Victorian metropolitan average.[ii]

“The primary health care education package will help to address the variation in clinical knowledge, interest and capacity to deliver quality asthma care among general practitioners, pharmacists, maternal child health nurses and education providers in the inner west,” she said.

Melbourne’s inner west, comprising the municipalities of Brimbank, Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong, suffers from high levels of air pollution and in particular, Yarraville and Brooklyn have been named as two of Victoria’s air pollution ‘hot spots’.

They rank seventh and eighth[iii] in Australia for air pollution concentrations, mainly from transport, industry, shipping, localised urban issues, waste fires and wood heaters.

Due to its proximity to rye grasslands and the particular nature of thunderstorms, the inner west is likely to be the first area in Melbourne affected by thunderstorm asthma and with little warning.

Ms Williamson said not surprisingly, inner west residents have higher-than-average rates of hospitalisation for a range of respiratory illnesses, including asthma.

“The most immediate paediatric health consequences of air pollution are wheezing and asthma, along with allergy. Children are especially vulnerable because their lungs are still developing and they spend a lot of time outdoors while at school and playing sports.

“We know that there are seasonal peaks in asthma-related emergency department presentations, typically coinciding with the start of the school year, then in the winter months of July and August with exacerbations induced by upper-respiratory viral infections and again in November due to seasonal allergies and thunderstorm asthma.

“The new education package will ensure primary care health professionals are equipped with the knowledge and tools to enable them to provide year-round high-quality asthma care to children and adolescents in Melbourne’s inner west.

“This includes important information to be included in a Written Asthma Action Plan and understanding the steps in managing acute asthma in primary care,” she said.

Ms Williamson added, “While the pilot education package has been designed for the inner west, we would encourage all health professionals to undertake the training as asthma is one of the most common childhood conditions in Australia and yet remains poorly controlled.”

The free, interactive, online education package is recognised by the RACGP as a CPD activity and is based on the Australian Asthma Handbook, which details the latest, evidence-based guidelines for treating paediatric asthma in primary care.





Text by: National Asthma Council Australia.