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UK Improves Children's Asthma Treatment

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

UK health agencies and schools must improve the management of childhood asthma to help children lead full and healthy lives, Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health urged today.

The call was made during Asthma Awareness Week at a conference on Health Inequalities. Asthma affects 5 million people in this country, including 1.1 million children, and it is one of the leading causes of hospitalisation of children.

Today also sees the publication of Tackling Health Inequalities, 10 Years On. The report finds that over the last 10 years, as the Government has tackled health inequalities, disadvantaged groups in England have benefited from significant improvements in health.

According to the report, men in disadvantaged "spearhead" areas are now expected to live almost three years longer than they were 10 years ago, and women are expected to live almost two years longer.

Despite significant improvements in health, health inequalities remain. To help identify what more can be done to close the gap, in November 2008, Alan Johnson asked Professor Marmot to chair an independent Strategic Review of Health Inequalities Post 2010.

Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson said: "We are bringing local health trusts and schools together to make sure that child asthma sufferers in every part of the country get help in managing their symptoms, so they can lead full and active lives.

"Progress on tackling health inequalities has been challenging, but worth it. We have built a platform for future success, and Professor Sir Michael Marmot's review will help strengthen our plans further.

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"Our ambition remains as strong as ever despite economic circumstances. Ignoring the health inequality gap is not an option. We are resolved to redouble our efforts to build on these gains, to deliver the 2010 target, and lay the foundations for a sustainable reduction in health inequalities and the social injustice which it spawns."

Professor Sir Michael Marmot said: "The health of the worst off in England has improved over the last ten years. But, with comparable improvements in health, the gap between the worst off and the average has not narrowed. Although much has improved, inequalities in income, educational achievement, literacy, child poverty, unemployment, local areas, anti-social behaviour and crime persist. These inequalities are deep-seated in society and improvements inevitably take time."

10 Years On was developed with the oversight and advice of the scientific reference group on health inequalities, and highlights how lessons learned can inform current policy, and contribute to future thinking.

In 1998, Sir Donald Acheson, a former chief medical officer, set a challenging target and made 39 recommendations to improve access to and quality of health services, and on the social determinants of poor health - poverty, poor education, unemployment and poor housing.

As part of the Child Health Strategy, the Government is looking at how schools and early years settings can better support children with long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

A Best Practice Guide for Children's Asthma is also being developed. It will help support local services by ensuring that children have improved access to high quality services close to home, and with rapid access to more specialist expertise when needed.

Primary care trusts are being encouraged to make better use of the data on the treatment of asthma - a disease information management tool that has been developed enables them to analyse how many emergency bed days are attributable to asthma attacks, and use this information to plan better services for patients.

Adult asthma will be one of the focus areas of the national strategy on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is due to be published later this year.