The AIMS Games spectrum is growing on and off the field with asthma education the latest addition to the healthy-living focus of the weeklong tournament.

The 2breathe campaign - which aims to educate athletes, coaches and parents on asthma management for sport - joins a raft of educational projects including smoke-free, sun-smart and recycling ventures.

Tauranga respiratory nurse Lee Walter went blue for the week to make sure the common condition did not hold any keen kids back from the field.

The 2breathe campaign, begun by Ms Walter and funded by primary health organisation Nga Matapuna Oranga, aims to educate kids, coaches and parents on how to manage asthma.

When we talk to coaches and adults, their feedback says it's the kid's responsibility but when you speak to the children they have no idea.


It was a common assumption that athletic children would know how to manage their asthma, but Ms Walter was surprised to find that was often not the case.

"When we talk to coaches and adults, their feedback says it's the kid's responsibility but when you speak to the children they have no idea."

Some children who were diagnosed asthmatics had turned up to the tournament with no medication and in other cases, kids had inhalers but had never been diagnosed.

Coaches and adult helpers were finding they were expected to be responsible but confident about what to do if a child had an asthma attack.

Many told Ms Walter they felt they needed asthma education and support.

Thanks to the funding from Nga Matapuna Oranga, Ms Walter was able to give an asthma support kit to 48 of the 96 netball teams competing.

Because of their short resources and their first year involved in the games, they picked one of the bigger sporting codes to focus on.

Cindy Borrie of the Asthma Foundation thought it was a fantastic initiative. "I think it's fantastic and it's targeting kids when they're happy and comfortable and with their peers where they can talk about these things."

Each year 3000 children were hospitalised from asthma and 97 per cent of those could be avoided, Ms Borrie said.

Asthma could also hold kids back from the sport they loved if not properly managed, she said.

Tournament director Vicki Semple said as soon as Ms Walter approached her with the idea she was happy to support it.

"I think people realise that the AIMS Games is a good vehicle to get the word out there.

"Every day leading up to the AIMS Games we get contacted by organisations and businesses who want to get involved, but we're very selective."

The asthma messages were important for athletes at the emerging adolescent age, when they were keen to learn, she said.

"It's great to promote really good messages in a positive way."

Asthma by the numbers

* One in seven children aged 2 to 14 take asthma medication.

* In New Zealand it costs about $1200 per day to treat a child in hospital for asthma.

* In 2013 asthma was responsible for 7400 admissions to hospital.

* People still die from asthma, with 69 deaths in 2011.

* $8million is the conservative estimate of the annual economic burden of asthma.

- 2014 Asthma Information, The Asthma Foundation NZ