The Ghana Thoracic Society (GTS) – an association of healthcare professionals with interest in respiratory disease training, management, advocacy and research – has cautioned parents about the alarming rate of asthma conditions diagnosed among children within the past five to 10 years.
The association is therefore urging parents and the general public to be vigilant of symptoms, and say that any early signs of difficulty in breathing should be rushed to the hospital for diagnosis and management.
According to the association, currently about 5.2 percent of children in the country have been diagnosed with asthma – an increase from the previous 3.4 percent. On a daily basis, the country records 5.6 deaths from the condition.
In 2020, Ghana recorded 1,179 deaths from the condition; with about 65 percent of the deaths happening before the patients got to the hospital after the attack occurred.
This high number of deaths in Ghana and other developing countries has been linked to a lack of effective treatment and interventions, knowledge about the condition, and scientific management practices.
Colonel Dr. Clement Laryea, president of the GTS, mentioned that asthma is incurable; therefore effective treatment is critical for management of the condition; unfortunately, lack of effective treatment is established as the leading cause of asthma deaths in the country.
National asthma management guidelines
The GTS president explained that with funding support from international donor partners, the association developed asthma management guidelines based on the International Thoracic Society standard but tailored to fit local conditions.
The guidelines are targetted at knowledge-sharing and education, and awareness creation for healthcare workers, patients and the general public. It is also aimed at patient empowerment on the condition for better self-management.
“On World Asthma Day, we want to create awareness that asthma is a very common disease and can be handled in a professional way to reduce difficulty in breathing.
“The management of asthma is essential to prevent and control symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks. The National Asthma Guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis, treatment and management of asthma. These guidelines are essential for healthcare providers to make informed decisions and provide appropriate care to patients with asthma.
“Asthma is a condition that narrows the airways, making breathing quite difficult. Dusty environments triggers asthma. Changes in our environment and climate change menace are contributing factors to the increasing asthma rates globally,” he said.
Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, in a speech read on his behalf by the Acting Programme Manager, Non-Communicable Diseases, Ghana Health Service, Dr. Mary Efua Commeh, emphasised that the National Asthma Guidelines are important because they provide a standardised approach to the management of asthma, and emphasise the importance of patient education including self-management skills to help patients manage their asthma effectively.
Touching on the condition’s upsurge among children, she said: “Parents are encouraged to frequent the hospital when symptoms are recognized, such as difficulty in breathing. It’s worse at night or dawn, so parents should be very observant and quickly take their wards to health facilities”.