More than 2500 Hawke's Bay people need hospital treatment for respiratory issues each year.
Respiratory disease has increased nationwide despite modern treatment and better understanding of the problem, according to the Asthma Foundation's National Respiratory Strategy.
Respiratory disease refers to conditions which impair the airways and lungs including asthma, bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and obstructive sleep apnoea.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board (DHB) figures showed people needed to go to hospital for respiratory conditions 2514 times in the calendar year to the end of November 2015.
That compared to 2752 for the whole of 2014 and 2438 in 2013.
Three organisations won a Hawke's Bay Health Award for their work in improving awareness, diagnosis and early intervention of respiratory disease last year.
The Hawke's Bay Health Awards Excellence in Provider Collaboration and Integration went to the Hawke's Bay DHB, Health Hawke's Bay and Asthma Hawke's Bay.
In the winning entry, registered nurse Sue Ward said respiratory management had historically been provided in secondary care.
A 20-month collaboration project between the organisations aimed to increase awareness of respiratory disease, provide accurate diagnosis and treatment and lead to improved quality of life through health care at general practices.
Ms Ward, who ran the project, said independent evaluation had shown reduction in presentations to Hawke's Bay Fallen Soldiers' Memorial Hospital emergency department and a reduction in referrals to secondary care for non-complex investigation.
It had also shown decreased length of stay, increased accurate diagnosis and improved staff and patient feedback, said Ms Ward.
The Asthma Foundation's strategy report said children, people on low incomes and Maori and Pacific people experienced a much greater burden of respiratory ill health than other New Zealanders.
Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie of Massey University said respiratory diseases not only reflected the health status of individuals but were also a comment on the environments where they lived, worked, and played.
He said poverty was a breeding ground for respiratory diseases.
Ongoing exposure to toxic air, poorly heated homes or streets clouded by diesel and petrol fumes greatly increase the risks of respiratory disease.
Addressing the problem required highly skilled medical interventions, ready access to services, early intervention, close links between the various components of the health sector and high levels of health literacy, he said.
The National Respiratory Strategy was a call to action to reduce the incidence of respiratory disease, reduce the impact of respiratory disease and eliminate inequalities in respiratory health in New Zealand, according to the report. NZME