Discussion: The Economic Burdens Of Improper Asthma Management

Asthma is the most prevalent chronic respiratory disease that directly affects over 358 million individuals globally1. If you are one of the many affected by the condition, you would be well aware of its impact to your daily activities.

According to a 2019 multi-national study that surveyed over 1,500 participants from countries like Japan, Germany and the UK, three out of four workers missed nearly one-tenth of their weekly work due to their asthma, with asthma reducing work productivity by more than a third due to their condition2. Feelings such as fear and anxiety around job security, a sense of loss of control, guilt and embarrassment are also common.

In addition, a recent study conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has revealed that the annual economic burden in Singapore due to asthma is S$2.09 billion, with 79% were due to productivity losses3.

Let us dive deeper into the considerable economic burden that the condition has on patients, their families and society.

Increased economic burden due to uncontrolled asthma

As many of us might suspect, asthma brings about direct costs through physician visits, diagnostic tests, medications, as well as indirect costs in the form of increased work absenteeism and presenteeism, i.e., reduced productivity while at work due to a medical condition.

As shown in the same study by Duke-NUS and SGH, the level of symptom control plays a significant role in reducing the economic burden on both individuals and the society – the group of patients that were noted to be uncontrolled in managing their symptoms were responsible for 46% of the total cost, while the well-controlled portion only accounted for 13%3.

While some may argue that better symptom control would incur a higher cost due to the additional medical aid and support required, this is not necessarily true – if you think about it, better control translates to a reduction in medical expenditure and lowers the cost of current treatments. Well-controlled asthma also reduces presenteeism as you can better handle your workload and feel confident in taking on more opportunities.

Positive change starts with you

Individuals can play a part in reducing the overall economic burden of asthma by taking steps towards good asthma management. As someone with asthma, improving your level of symptom control is an important first step to seeing a positive change in your quality of life in terms of productivity gains and financial savings.

Firstly, if you find yourselves in the category of uncontrolled or having only partly controlled symptoms, try employing strategies that include getting regular check-ups with your doctor and getting started with an asthma action plan.

For instance, taking your medications on time and as prescribed by your doctor rather than grabbing your reliever inhaler every time you need relief can help you better manage your symptoms in the long run. Preventer medication such as inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) may even reduce your propensity to asthma attacks and are by far the most effective in improving lung function and reducing inflammation.

Knowing where and how to get the right support is key to managing your asthma well – reach out to those who are supportive and encouraging of your condition or others in the community who share a similar story to yours. Should you find yourself in a financial situation and are unable to afford the treatment you need, it might be good to seek options such as the Chronic Disease Management Programme that is designed to assist you with your medical bills.

Lastly, good lifestyle habits could also chip in to help you manage your condition – being more alert to your triggers, quitting smoking and participating in regular exercise as recommended by your doctor are all great starting points.

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