Australia’s 10 research priorities for people with asthma


By Siobhan Calafiore

23 Mar 2023

Australian researchers have listed 10 research priorities for asthma shared by those set to benefit most from the outcomes – patients, carers and doctors.

Their study involved an online survey of almost 600 individuals, including patients (83%), carers (8%), healthcare professionals and policymakers (9%).

The research team, led by Asthma Australia and the Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma at the University of Newcastle, asked participants free-text questions, including ‘what would you like to see answered by research to improve living with asthma on a day-to-day basis?’.

Overall, 75% of respondents said they wanted more research on exercise and sleep, which, the team noted, might have been due to the examples of asthma limitations provided in the survey.

Nearly half of participants were interested in the themes of asthma in children; causes, prevention and features of asthma; managing acute attacks; and diagnosis and medication.

And about one-third mentioned that asthma triggers were important.

While patients with asthma across all age groups had similar priorities, responses varied for carers depending on their age, with asthma in children a priority for those aged 25-44, and causes and prevention most important for older age groups.

Popular research questions related to asthma in children included how asthma remission could be achieved and how to define and implement the right treatment plan.

The research team said respondents were also seeking research on new ways to diagnose asthma, better co-testing and diagnosis of comorbidities such as allergies and vocal cord dysfunction.

“End-users also called for research to develop personalised medication options to suit different types of people and their lifestyles and better information on the side-effects of medications and how to manage them,” they wrote in Respirology [link here].

Other priorities included improving management of acute asthma attacks, including the recognition of early warning signs, as well as improving medical training and education.

The survey, conducted between November and December 2021, was complemented by three online workshops the following year where participants ranked the research priorities.

“The final agenda is a strong one with a mix of themes whose areas of focus align with significant bodies of pre-existing research (asthma in children, COVID 19 and asthma, asthma care and self-management), as well as some themes which arguably have been under-emphasised in past 20 years (asthma attacks, diagnosis, causes/prevention, mental health, ageing and comorbidities),” the researchers concluded.

They said the data could be used to inform planning for future research.

Priority Theme Theme summary
1 Asthma in children This theme relates to the prevention, treatment, impacts and causes of asthma remission in children. It also extends to the impacts and unmet support needs for carers of children with asthma.
2 COVID-19 and asthma This theme encapsulates the much-needed information on the long- and short-term impacts of COVID-19 for people with asthma, if COVID-19 can cause asthma, and the effects of COVID-19 strategies (such as mask wearing), on people with asthma.
3 Asthma care and self-management This theme included issues surrounding access to and delivery of service, patient-clinician partnership, self-management strategies and patient empowerment.
4 Diagnosis and medication This theme relates to new and improved diagnosis tools for asthma, as well as incorporating diagnosis of commonly co-existing conditions (such as allergies) as part of the standard assessment. This theme also highlights issues around medications including side-effects and more personalised medication options to suit different people with asthma.
5 Managing asthma attacks This theme talked about improving education and trainings to better recognise and respond during acute asthma attacks.
6 Causes, prevention and features of asthma This theme encompasses better understanding of the causes and prevention of asthma, including the role of genes and diet. It also extends to understanding the intergenerational impacts of asthma, development of severe asthma and prevention of irreversible lung damage.
7 Mental health This theme focuses on research to understand the relationship between asthma and psychological factors (anxiety and depression), how these impact self-management and wellbeing, and how to manage mental health conditions in people with asthma. The need for a tailored psychological support following a life-threatening asthma attack was also identified.
8 Asthma and ageing Central to this theme was the need for understanding what triggers the development of late onset asthma. Strategies to better manage asthma in older population, and how this differs to management in other population groups was also highlighted.
9 Severe asthma This theme encompasses better understanding of the features, causes and impact of severe asthma, as well as the relationship between severe asthma and anxiety/depression.
10 Asthma and other health conditions Central to this theme was how to best manage asthma with multiple comorbidities, with a particular focus on vocal cord dysfunction.
Source: Respirology 2023; 15 March. 

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