Speech at the Launch of World Spirometry Day
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27 June 2012
Thank you Professor Whitby, and good morning ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present.
Today’s worldwide campaign gives us the opportunity to appreciate the importance of lung health.
I think it’s fair to say that some of us don’t fully understand the impact that our lungs can have on our health until we experience a problem.
Respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, affect millions of Australians and are an underlying cause in around 11,000 deaths every year.
So today gives us pause to think about our lungs, particularly if we smoke or if we are exposed to environmental and workplace contaminants.
A 2010 survey of general practitioners by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that respiratory conditions were the most common health problems being managed by GPs, and accounted for over 20 per cent of their cases.
As Professor Whitby mentioned earlier, the Australian Government—through the Department of Health and Ageing—funded the National Asthma Council to conduct a 2006 survey on spirometry use in Australian general practices.
The survey found that while nearly three out of four GP practices had spirometers, there was a lack of training to help GPs and practice nurses to properly use and calibrate the devices, and to interpret the results.
As a result, the NAC was supported to develop the nation’s first spirometry training courses.
The content for the courses was developed by the Australia and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Scientists and the GP Asthma Group of the NAC to ensure best practice spirometry use within general practice.
Demand for the training is high, particularly in rural and remote areas, which is a good indication of the thirst for knowledge that Australian general practices have about spirometry and lung health.
In the current training program, which began in 2010, the NAC has trained 238 GPs and 582 practice nurses across Australia—from Broome to Hervey Bay, Kalgoorlie to Broken Hill, and in many other locations.
This morning, I’m also pleased to launch two important resources—also developed by the NAC—that will improve knowledge about spirometry for both patients and health professionals.
The first is the Asthma and Lung Function Tests information paper, written specifically for health professionals as a best practice guide.
It provides guidelines for performing the test, tips on purchasing a spirometer, and advice for effectively conducting it within the constraints of a normal consultation.
The second—A guide for breathing tests for asthma—is a consumer brochure designed for patients. It clearly and simply explains what spirometry is, why it is important and how it is done.
Because the spirometry test is unique and requires patients to exert themselves, it is essential that patients understand that their effort and cooperation is needed for an accurate result.
Equally, their doctor or nurse needs to conduct the test in a way that is consistent, and that they provide patients with the information they need to feel comfortable.
These resources will be available nationally from the NAC’s website and from the Asthma Australia.
I commend the NAC on this work and for their continued commitment to spirometry and asthma awareness.
Before I finish, I’d also like to mention that as part of Australia’s recognition of World Spirometry Day, the Australian Lung Foundation is conducting free public spirometry testing sessions in capital cities around the country.
Here in Parliament House, they will be held outside Aussie’s Café, so get down there if you can.
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