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A message to close the gap on asthma this Reconciliation Week

31 May 2019 

From 27 May to 3 June we recognise National Reconciliation Week.

We are reminded that the prevalence of asthma in Indigenous Australians is much higher, sitting at 18% or one in six people, compared with 11.2% or one in nine, and that work needs to continue towards a unified future.

For more perspective on ways to improve the health of Indigenous Australians, we approached Martin Beaupark, a Quandamooka man living in Sydney’s south and member of Asthma Australia’s Consumer Advisory Council.

We asked Martin how asthma affects his life and his thoughts on steps to help close the gap and better support Indigenous people with asthma.

His answer was a message for everyone to hear.

To give you some background, Martin has a deep and personal connection with health risks facing Indigenous peoples, having lost family members to both asthma and diabetes. 

He says asthma affects his whole family.

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“My two children have asthma and so does my wife,” he says.   “My asthma is really under control now, but before then I was sick a lot because I wasn’t managing it well.

“I lost my grandmother in the 1950’s to asthma, she was only in her 50’s then. It’s in our family” he said.

For Martin his asthma started as a dry cough 35 years ago.  “I was in the Military when I was diagnosed. I used to get a dry cough and then get sick with lung infections, but once I was well again I’d just forget. 

“I didn’t believe asthma was really that big of a deal for me.”

Martin said it’s this mindset that makes the difference between being healthy or unwell with asthma. 

“You can’t brush asthma aside, like I did. It just manifests over time.  What turned my health around was educating myself about asthma.” 

 “That’s key to closing the gap. Asthma education. That’s my message. Not just for Indigenous peoples but for everyone.”

He said when you took the time to understand asthma, you take it seriously, like you should be.

“Now I can be there for my children,” he said.

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Talking to Martin, he says broader misunderstanding of asthma in our communities has a big influence on how people treat their asthma and this also needed to change.   

“We need more attention, support and education for this illness across the board, in all sectors of our community. So many people are affected by it.”

Uncontrolled asthma contributes to premature deaths and morbidity in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

2.7 million Australians are affected by the lifelong chronic breathing condition.

If you have asthma or know someone with it, you are encouraged to find out more about it by calling the 1800 ASTHMA Helpline (1800 278 462) or navigating through the Asthma Australia website. 

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