Half of Kiwi asthma sufferers have uncontrolled symptoms

Nearly half of all Kiwi asthma sufferers have uncontrolled symptoms which could increase their risk of hospitalisation1, according to leading New Zealand asthma experts.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with nearly 8000 people hospitalised each year2, and an estimated 65 deaths every year3 as a result of the disease.

It’s believed one in seven Kiwi children takes medication for asthma4, and one in nine adults5, totalling more than 500,000 New Zealanders affected by the disease.

Recent research shows half of those living with asthma do not have the disease under adequate control, which can result in hospitalisation, time off work or school due to illness, interrupted sleep, and limitations in physical activity.

Professor Richard Beasley, a respiratory medicine specialist at Wellington Hospital, says despite marked reductions in New Zealand’s asthma fatality rate over the last two decades, more still needs to be done in managing the disease.

“New Zealand has a fantastic track record in tackling the problem of asthma in New Zealand, with death rates from asthma plummeting since the mid-1980s. However there is still a substantive burden of disease and we can do better,” says Professor Beasley, ahead of World Asthma Day on 5 May.

“The current focus is to gain better levels of control, which will drive down hospitalisations and death rates in New Zealand even further.”

A new local study by asthma expert Professor Shaun Holt has revealed that using a simple five question test for patients - called the Asthma Control Test (ACT) - can assess a patient’s level of asthma control.

If a patient does not have control of their asthma, then appropriate stepping up of treatment could mean 75% of all those suffering from asthma could live with very few symptoms.

“Asthma is a chronic condition, and currently people will go to their GPs and just say it’s ticking along as normal, but often they do not realise that what is normal for them could actually be a lot of symptoms which could be eliminated,” explains Dr Holt, who conducted the Step-Up Study on Asthma Control.6

“With the ACT test, GPs can assess patients with a score that indicates what level of control they have over their symptoms. What this study shows is that if the ACT score is used to alter the patient’s medications and doses, then most people with uncontrolled asthma will have a large improvement.”

The study results showed 75% of patients with uncontrolled asthma became controlled after completing the 30-second test and having their medication changed by their GP.

Linda Thompson, Executive Director of Asthma New Zealand, says patients need to be aware of how dangerous asthma can be if it is not managed appropriately.

“Particularly when it comes to children, sometimes parents can underestimate the danger of asthma, and this needs to be addressed in order to keep kids out of hospital, and feeling happy and healthy despite living with the condition.”

Kiwi asthmatics are being encouraged to ask their GP about the ACT test next time they visit for a check-up, along with stopping smoking, and monitoring children’s asthma symptoms to ensure they are well-managed.



  1. Holt S et al. NZMJ 2011;124:99-101
  2. New Zealand Asthma Foundation, Asthma Facts 2014. Data from University of Otago Statistics 2013. Review of admission information (provided to Asthma Foundation on 1 Jan 2013)
  3. Ministry of Health Mortality Data - Asthma as cause of death, by age and sex, total population 2011
  4. Ministry of Health Report: The Health of New Zealand Children 2011/12
  5. Ministry of Health Report: The Health of New Zealand Adults 2011/12
  6. Holt S et al. Cohort study of a simple ‘Step-Up’ regimen with the Asthma Control Test. Respirology 2015;20:504-506

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