"We would have got it by now if we were going to get it..." An analysis of asthma awareness and beliefs in older adults
ISSUE ADDRESSED: Asthma affects more than two million Australians, and of growing concern for the Australian health system is asthma in the over 65+ age group. Between 1997 and 2001, 61% of all deaths attributable to asthma occurred in people aged over 65 and mortality in this group remains higher than the rate for all other groups. METHODS: An investigation of older Australians' perceptions of asthma prevalence and impact was conducted in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Eight focus groups with the target audience were conducted to explore their attitudes, knowledge and skills with regard to asthma symptoms, prevalence, diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, 12 in-depth interviews were conducted with a broad range of health professionals to ascertain their opinion of the target audience's asthma knowledge and understanding. RESULTS: Results indicate that these older Australians are unaware of the prevalence and severity of asthma in their age group, have limited understanding of symptoms and treatments, and associate the condition with children. Health professionals reported that older people minimise respiratory symptoms as a natural part of ageing. CONCLUSIONS: Qualitative analysis using the Health Belief Model, suggests that heightened knowledge and awareness is necessary to bring about voluntary behaviour change in order to reduce asthma mortality and morbidity in the 65+ age group.