Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area one of UK's worst spots for lung-related emergency admissions and death rates
and live on Freeview channel 276
The shocking new analysis by Asthma + Lung UK Northern Ireland lists the local area as being one of the top 10 UK hotspots for highest emergency admissions and death rates for people with lung conditions with data showing the region is the third worst area in the UK for respiratory deaths.
The charity is urging the Department of Health to develop a Lung Health Strategy to ensure everyone gets an early diagnosis for their lung condition and once diagnosed receives support and information, as well as tackle unacceptably high rates of air pollution and smoking, which lead to lung conditions developing and worsening.
Asthma + Lung UK Northern Ireland launched its End the Lung Health Lottery campaign, analysed and ranked the latest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths from lung conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory infections like flu and pneumonia, for 216 local authorities throughout the UK.
Anouska Black, who lives in Craigavon, said it took a near-fatal asthma attack for her to realise how dangerous the condition can be.
"I now want to help raise awareness of the seriousness of asthma and campaign for better care in my area,” she said.
"I was just five when I was diagnosed with asthma. Many of my friends and family have it, including my partner and two of our children. People don’t really take it seriously as it’s so common where we live.
"Seeing this report really hit home. It made me think, why is it so bad here? What can be done to protect our children in the future?
"Three years ago, I had a nearly fatal asthma attack, it was terrifying. I was admitted onto the respiratory ward, where I spent five days on oxygen. One of my lungs almost collapsed and I was minutes away from death.
"It’s important to me that I share my experience to hopefully help make a difference. I hope in the future there’s more action to prevent people getting lung conditions such as tackling air pollution. We shouldn’t wait until people get sick before we help them, there must be a better way,” Anouska added.
Asthma + Lung UK Northern Ireland says that despite the tireless work of NHS doctors and nurses across the health trusts, basic levels of care for people with lung conditions is patchy. The reasons for such high rates of emergency admissions and deaths in some areas is likely due to health inequalities.
Many of the areas with poor lung health are areas where people experience higher levels of deprivation, which can lead to problems like having no choice but to live in poor quality housing, where cold, damp and mould can all be triggers for asthma attacks or cause lung conditions to worsen.
They are also areas with historically higher smoking rates. These factors mean that even if people were able to move to areas with lower emergency admissions and death rates, they wouldn’t necessarily experience better outcomes for their lung condition if underlying causes such as smoking, poor housing and exposure to air pollution aren’t addressed.
In addition, the charity says Northern Ireland is still without an ambitious Lung Health Strategy and has no set date for a smoke free NI. Poor air quality also plays a vital role, it can hinder children’s lungs development and can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks and COPD exacerbations. It says Northern Ireland urgently needs a functioning Executive to deliver on the draft Clean Air Strategy and stresses these three key policies could help tackle health disparities, promote better lung health and help reduce emergency hospital admissions in Northern Ireland.
Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma + Lung UK Northern Ireland, said: “It’s appalling that people across Northern Ireland are struggling to breathe, are being rushed to hospital in an emergency and that so many are dying avoidably from their lung conditions. We know that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have worse lung health, often with no choice but to live in poorer quality housing, more polluted areas with higher smoking rates. We need to tackle the lung health lottery head on.
“To do better, the Executive must get back to work and address the stark inequality in lung health and ensure the NHS has the resources to support its dedicated staff. People at risk of or living with lung conditions can’t simply move to improve their lung health, it is health inequality we must battle.
"We must ensure people living with a lung condition get an early diagnosis, have help quitting smoking, can breathe good quality air and receive the right support and treatment to manage their lung condition well.
"We're here to help everyone with a lung condition, wherever they are, and we want to urge everyone to take lung conditions seriously by joining our End the Lung Health Lottery campaign.”
To find out more about the End the Lung Health Lottery campaign go to www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/end-lung-health-lottery