Nigeria joined the rest of the world on every first Tuesday in the month of May, to commemorate World Asthma Day. The theme for this year’s event is “Closing Gaps in Asthma Care” The main objective is to focus on the best approach to close gaps between current and best medical practices in asthma care that prevent persons with asthma from enjoying optimal benefit from the major advances in the management of the condition and in addition, raise awareness of the condition that hitherto has been a bane to several asthma patients and families.
2. Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by recurrent episode of airway narrowing and obstruction, which reverses either spontaneously or after use of medication, and is usually associated with hyper-responsiveness and inflammation of the lower part of the airways. A person living with asthma may experience tightness in the chest, wheezing, breathlessness, coughing, increased mucus production. These symptoms are intermittent and are often worse at night or during exercise. An asthmatic attack occurs when the symptoms become severe which can begin suddenly and range from mild to life threatening.
3. Asthma is one of the major Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) around the world. It is a condition for which there is no cure available. In 2019, 3.2 million people died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), while 0.5 million people died from asthma. The Global Burden of Disease Survey 2019 estimates that 262 million people are affected by asthma and 212 million by COPD. In Nigeria there is no nationally representative data on asthma.
4. Although, asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthmatic attacks. An asthmatic attack may occur when the respiratory system is exposed to indoor or outdoor allergens. One major step to controlling these attacks is for people living with Asthma to recognize what triggers their attack and in turn avoid them. Therefore, recognizing one’s risk factors and avoiding them can go a long way in minimizing episodes and frequency of the attack. Parents and caregivers should also make sure their asthmatic children avoid such triggers as they may be unable to make informed choices by themselves. Parents are to pay attention to when symptoms occur: at night or early morning, during or after exercise, during certain seasons, laughing or crying.
5. There are a number of gaps in asthma care which require intervention to:
- Reduce preventable suffering and cost incurred in treating uncontrolled asthma
- Promote equal access to diagnosis and treatment (medicine)
- Provide care for different socio-economic, ethic and age groups
- Provide care for wealthy and poorer communities and countries
- Promote communication and education provided for people with asthma
- Increase knowledge and asthma awareness for persons with the condition, and also for health care providers
- Prioritization asthma and other long-term conditions.
6. Despite these challenges, the Federal Government is very much committed to providing leadership for the control and management of Asthma and other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) through the Federal Ministry of Health by strategically eliminating the risk factors, improving the management of these diseases as well as preventing their complications.
7. As part of the strategic interventions, the Government is focusing on advocacy aimed at achieving sustainable and cost-effective strategies to prevent, control, manage and treat Non-Communicable Diseases including asthma. The Ministry’s strategic response in the prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases is a multifaceted approach in collaboration with relevant line Ministries and Agencies of Governments.
8. Integration of Nigerian Package of Essential Non-Communicable Diseases (NIG PEN) prevention and control into the Primary Health Care (PHC) services is also on going in FCT and hopefully this intervention will be scaled up in PHCs nationwide. The integration encompasses training and human capacity building of health care workers for effective prevention, control, early diagnosis, prompt treatment and referral of cases to next level of health care for effective intervention in order to avert complications.
9. Similarly, plans have reached advanced stage for the Ministry to conduct a National Step Survey on Non-Communicable Diseases and risk factors in Nigeria including asthma to aid and generate local data for sound planning and policy direction in curbing the menace of NCDs, in order to help leverage the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.
10. The Federal Ministry of Health has also recognized that in order to galvanise efforts to strengthen the control of Asthma and other NCDs, thereby reducing the burden of these diseases on the health system as well as on national productivity and economy, there is need to collectively engage relevant stakeholders in all the processes involved in the planning, execution and monitoring of the Multi-Sectoral Action Plan for the prevention, control and management of Non-Communicable Diseases. Consequently, the Multi-Sectoral Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases has been launched. This plan will encourage active involvement of stakeholders from different sectors to support the implementation of the activities for the prevention, control and management of asthma and other Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria.
11. It is also pertinent to note that ignorance was the reason why there is still high mortality rate of the disease in the country. We must all therefore strive to reduce morbidity and mortality due to asthma and its complications by primary prevention to reduce the level of exposure to common risk factors.