Asthma mortality in Australia in the 21st century: a case series analysis

Dianne P Goeman, Michael John Abramson, Edwina McCarthy, Celia Zubrinich, Jo Anne Douglass

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25 Citations (Scopus)


As previous asthma mortality studies were undertaken between 1986 and 1997, and treatments have evolved since that time, in order to direct future asthma interventions, we investigated the reasons for asthma deaths between 2005 and 2009. Design: We undertook a case series analysis by searching the National Coroners Information System using the most recent International Classification of Diseases-10 codes J45 and J46 and the keyword asthma as the underlying cause of death. Setting: Records for 283 cases aged 70 years and under were retrieved from each Australian state and territory. Coroner s findings, autopsy, toxicology and police reports were reviewed to determine: if the team agreed the death was due to asthma and whether the death was preventable or modifiable factors existed? Owing to the likelihood of comorbidities or alternative diagnoses contributing to deaths in those over 70 years of age, this group was excluded. Results: Examination of available data in those aged under 70 years identified risk factors associated with asthma death. These included physical barriers (rural and remote location, institutionalised care), psychosocial issues (social disengagement, mental illness, living alone, being unemployed), smoking, drug and alcohol dependence, allergies, respiratory tract infections, inadequate treatment and delay in seeking help. Conclusions: Our study provides a current assessment of death from asthma across Australia. Further reductions in the rate of asthma deaths will require interventions targeted at the personal, practice and policy levels. Asthma-related health literacy needs to be improved especially among those with episodic asthma. Reforms are also needed to address inequity in healthcare delivery to reach the unreached . Our study points to the dangers associated with smoking, drug and alcohol use and the consequences of delay in seeking care among those with asthma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 8
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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