This May, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand (ARFNZ) is launching a dedicated New Zealand Asthma Awareness Day: Aotearoa - Te Rā Whakaarohia te Huangō.
New Zealand’s asthma statistics are among the worst in the world, with Māori tamariki, mokopuna and whānau disproportionately affected. The 2019 Global Burden of Disease reported the rate of death due to childhood asthma in New Zealand as nearly four times higher than the global rate for children aged 10-14 years. For children aged 5-9 years, the proportion of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) due to asthma in New Zealand was 3.6 times higher than the global rate.
World Asthma Day is an event organised by GINA (the Global Initiative for Asthma), which has been running since 1998 and is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of May worldwide.
"It’s time for Aotearoa to take asthma seriously, raise awareness of these statistics, and do it our way," says Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "We have Māori children being hospitalised at twice the rate of non-Māori, and with higher mortality from respiratory disease."
That is why, this Tuesday May 4th, and the first Tuesday of May every year in New Zealand, will now be Aotearoa - Te Rā Whakaarohia te Huangō.
The name is gifted to the Foundation by Sir John Clarke, KNZM, CNZM, ARFNZ’s Chief Cultural Advisor, Māori.
"I believe that poor living conditions have greatly contributed to health inequity, and that warm, dry homes are vital in reducing respiratory illness," says Sir John. "We need to focus on addressing these health inequities in Māori, ensuring we reach our tamariki, whānau and parents through education, and awareness is key. It’s crucial to arm them with knowledge about asthma, how to prevent an attack, and what to do in an asthma emergency."
Letitia Harding met with John Whaanga, Deputy Director General Māori Health this week, who offers his support for awareness around Aotearoa - Te Rā Whakaarohia te Huangō.
"We need to look at ways to stop Māori children being disproportionately hospitalised and dying from asthma, and this day brings attention to that.
"This day also aligns with Whakamaua, the Māori Health Action Plan, which outlines a suite of actions and priority areas that will help us achieve better health outcomes for Māori over the next five years. It will also help bring us closer to Pae Ora - healthy futures for all Māori, especially our tamariki," he says.
For more information on Aotearoa - Te Rā Whakaarohia te Huangō go to worldasthmaday.org.nz