Combatting Asthma with Holistic Education


AI generative image on asthma education.

With the commemoration of this year’s World Asthma Day on 7 May, attention has again been drawn to the essentiality of proper education in improving the lives of people living with the condition around the globe. The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), a World Health Organisation collaborative body, aptly chose the theme, “Asthma Education Empowers” for the 2024 event.

According to a statement released by GINA, the theme “emphasises the need to empower people with asthma with the appropriate education to manage their disease, and to recognise when to seek medical help.” It adds that “healthcare professionals are called upon to increase their awareness of the continuing avoidable morbidity and mortality from asthma, and the published evidence on effective management of asthma, so they are equipped to provide reliable information and optimal treatment for their patients.”

As one of the most common chronic non-communicable diseases, asthma affects over 260 million people and is responsible for 450,000 deaths every year. This gloomy global outlook necessitates that issues pertaining to the management of the disease be given urgent attention, in terms of relevant eductation. Such issues include under- or inaccurate diagnosis, underuse of anti-inflammatory inhaled corticosteroid inhalers, overuse, over-reliance on short-acting beta2–agonist (SABA) inhalers, and poor recognition of patients requiring specialist assessment and further management.

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With proper education and enlightenment, both patients and healthcare professionals can experience the best possible outcomes in  treatment and general patient care, especially in low-middle-income countries. Nigeria is a pertinent case in point here. While asthma affects millions of people worldwide, its impact is particularly significant in the country, considering that access to healthcare and education about the condition remains a challenge for many.

Accordingly, to commemorate the World Asthma Day in the country, the Nigerian Thoracic Society (NTS) has advocated for improved resources and support for individuals with asthma. In a statement, the NTS noted that raising awareness and ensuring the enactment of policies that would make asthma management easier would have the desired impact.

The statement, signed by NTS President, Prof. M. Babashani and the Secretary General, Dr Abiona Odeyemi, reiterated that this year’s theme is aimed at encouraging individuals to rise to the occasion and tackle their asthma by seeking the best treatment options targeted towards the improvement of their conditions.

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“It also highlights the importance of educating individuals on how to properly manage their asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. By empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills to manage their asthma, we can help improve their quality of life and reduce the burden of this chronic respiratory disease,” the statement added.

As at today, the prevalence of asthma in Nigeria is high. with approximately 13 million cases, ranking amongst the highest in Africa. Part of the reasons for this is that misconceptions and myths surrounding asthma persist in the country, leading to delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment. Many individuals, including healthcare providers, lack sufficient knowledge about asthma triggers, symptom recognition, and proper management techniques. As a result, asthma remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria, disproportionately affecting children and adults alike.

To address these challenges, concerted efforts are needed to prioritise asthma education and awareness campaigns across the country. Schools, healthcare facilities, and community organisations must collaborate to disseminate accurate information about asthma, its triggers, and the importance of early intervention. In particular, asthma patients and their families should be given information that empowers them to properly self-manage their condition. Healthcare workers must also be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to diagnose and manage asthma and to provide appropriate support for their patients.

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Additionally, policy-makers and healthcare planners must understand the burden of  the disease, the costs of uncontrolled asthma symptoms and attacks, and the cost-effective treatments available.

It is our belief that by empowering individuals with holistic   knowledge about asthma management and prevention, we can reduce the burden of the disease and improve outcomes for asthma sufferers nationwide. In addition, healthcare infrastructure in the country must be strengthened to ensure access to essential asthma medications, including inhalers and corticosteroids.

Affordable and reliable healthcare services should be made available to all, regardless of socio-economic status or geographic location. Moreover, investments in environmental initiatives, such as air quality monitoring and pollution control measures, must be put in place to mitigate asthma triggers and promote respiratory health for all Nigerians.


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