Date Published: 1 April 2009

Regional asthma program rolled out nationally

Health News from Australia.

A life saving asthma intervention program developed by Monash University for regional and rural Victoria will be launched nationally after the overwhelming success of the initiative.

The Ambulances for Asthma project, administered by Asthma Foundations of Australia and funded by the Federal Government's Department of Health and Ageing, aimed to increase people's use of ambulance services for asthma incidents in regional and rural Victoria through the use of free online resources.

More than 2000 Australians are diagnosed with asthma each year and the condition causes 300 deaths annually.

Monash University Emergency Health lecturer Leanne Boyd developed the program following statistics which revealed an alarmingly high rate of people with severe asthma electing to drive themselves to hospital instead of calling an ambulance.

"Some of the reasons people did not call an ambulance included a distrust of the '000' system, concerns that the paramedics would be unable to locate their rural property, underestimating asthma severity and not considering asthma as warranting ambulance paramedic assistance," Ms Boyd said.

"We also discovered that some health professionals did not advise patients to use ambulance services if they needed them, and did not know what an ambulance paramedic could do for a patient with asthma."

The Ambulances for Asthma project uses a multimedia package to inform asthma patients about the course of action to take in the case of an asthma attack including when to call an ambulance and what to expect during the call out process.

Following the introduction of the program in regional and rural Victoria, Ms Boyd found that 64% of participants stated they were more likely to call an ambulance as a result of the project.

Based on the success of the project, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, through the Asthma Foundations of Australia, has provided a further $66,000 for the program to be rolled out at the national level for metropolitan, rural and remote areas.

"There is no national emergency response service, so this information is particularly important for people who may be moving to another state or who are travelling and taking holidays," Ms Boyd said.

Information will include relevant resources and emergency contact details for specific areas like the Royal Flying Doctor's Service and Nurse on Call.

"The online service will include images of paramedics and emergency transport vehicles as these vary in look from state to state, as well as specific call out protocols for each state and what to do in particularly remote areas were the '000' service is not available."



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