2020 created unpredicted and unparalleled challenges for everyone in our community and across the world. Our lives are now dominated by COVID-19 and the constant need to adapt our lifestyles to minimise the impact of this formidable virus.
Thankfully, we have a brilliant health care system and although there have been tragic losses, particularly in Victoria, largely Australia has done very well so far. No one could have imagined months of lockdown, isolation, border closures, masks – a myriad of restrictions to all facets of what we had previously taken for granted as our way of life. We have all played a part in the success of containing COVID-19 here in Australia.
For those with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there was the increased concern of how COVID-19 would affect them. Fortunately, early research indicates that there is no greater risk of catching COVID-19 than the general population and that in fact, current treatments for these conditions may reduce the effects of a COVID-19 infection.
National Asthma Council Australia (NAC) publishes the Australian Asthma Handbook (AAH) which is the asthma management guidelines in Australia. Version 2.1 of the AAH was released in September 2020 and includes new medication options for managing mild asthma in Australia. The update also includes COVID-19 management guidelines and spirometry infection control recommendations for primary care.
NAC has long supported health professionals with a suite of educational workshops to promote and disseminate the guidelines for asthma management. During 2020 the traditional face-to-face workshops were not possible and NAC responded by developing a webinar series of presentations, allowing our education program to continue. The webinars were very popular, with a total of 68 being presented between May and November of 2020.
NAC provides a wide variety of resources on asthma management for health professionals and the vital work of updating and renewing these continued despite the COVID lockdown restrictions. The NAC team is proud to note the following 2020 achievements:
- COVID-19 resources published in April 2020 and continually updated
- updated spirometry resources launched in June 2020
- transition from face to face workshops to a webinar series
- Australian Asthma Handbook V 2.1 launched
- medication and allergic rhinitis charts updated
- information papers released- work related asthma, monoclonal therapy for severe asthma
- six new device technique videos added to the How-to video library.
As we move forward and pick up the pieces of our lives again, we want to encourage those with asthma to continue to self-manage their chronic condition with confidence.
Advice and support are readily available from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and via online resources. NAC has many handy resources, including on line videos demonstrating how to use asthma devices correctly, fact sheets on many topics and Twitter and Facebook accounts where you can keep up to date with the latest asthma news. See www.nationalasthma.org.au for both health professional and community resources.
The future looks much brighter in 2021, with the return to school and work, businesses reopening, families being reunited, interstate travel being possible and life generally looking and feeling more normal. The worldwide scientific effort to create and provide a COVID-19 vaccine is a phenomenal achievement. Those with respiratory conditions will benefit from the regular influenza and pneumonia vaccines and the new COVID-19 vaccine will be added to the list. Those more vulnerable will be immunized first, so keep an eye out for when and how this important vaccine will be available in your area. Let’s all focus on staying safe an keeping well in 2021.