MEP for the North/West region Marian Harkin is calling for a special asthma management programme modelled on a Finnish initiative to be introduced here.
She said the Finnish programme which incorporates early diagnosis, active treatment, guided self management and patient education coupled with reductions in tobacco smoke exposure has proven very successful.
“It has achieved a 54 per cent reduction in hospital bed days, a 36 per cent decrease in cost per patient per year, a very significant reduction in mortality rates and crucially, much improved outcomes for asthma sufferers.
“It makes absolute sense that a similar programme to that in Finland be introduced in Ireland.”
Her comments came in the wake of a presentation to MEPs in Brussels by the Asthma Society of Ireland.
She said Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma worldwide with approximately 470,000 people affected. There was a 40 per cent increase in the incidence of the disease among 13 to 14-year-olds from 1995 to 2003.
She singled out the Irish Asthma Society for special praise for its new pilot project.
“While these figures give real cause for concern the Irish Asthma Society is involved in a new pilot project to achieve better management of the disease in order to deliver real benefits to sufferers.”
She stated the Asthma Society recognised the importance of dealing with the “asthma epidemic” at both national and European levels.
“They were chosen as the first European country to pilot the HARP project (Helping Asthma in Real Patients ). Because so many people suffer from asthma we sometimes lose sight of the major impact it has on people’s lives and indeed on the health service and the economy.
“Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and there is more than one death per week from it in Ireland. It is estimated that it accounts for 40,000 lost working days per year and between 2000 and 2004, it accounted for 5,374 hospital admissions and 23,000 hospital bed days. Therefore any programme that would benefit the quality of life of asthma suffers and ease the burden on the health system is to be welcomed.”