Rising numbers of Bay of Plenty people are being admitted to hospital for respiratory issues with children and Maori making up a large proportion.

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, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, lung cancer and obstructive sleep apnoea.

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Bay of Plenty DHB figures showed people went to hospital for respiratory illness 1528 times last year, up on 1503 the previous year and 1422 times in 2013.

Maori were more than a third of all admissions last year and children under 15 were about 40 per cent.

DHB chief executive Helen Mason said four clinical nurse specialists had been recruited to the respiratory service in the past few years to specifically work with patients to minimise admissions and provide training, education and early assessment in key risk patients.

She said the DHB had also introduced clinical pathways for respiratory care in an effort to reduce hospital admissions.

The DHB had recently completed an audit on patients whose primary reason for admission was identified as pneumonia. The audit looked at whether pneumonia was being coded and diagnosed appropriately, said Mrs Mason, although the audit results were not yet available.

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 increased 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, Sir Mason 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, the report said.