The number of children hospitalised with asthma has almost doubled in New Zealand since 2002, a new report shows, with an expert saying some asthma-related deaths could be prevented if access to medicine is enhanced.
The report by Massey University found hospitalisation of children rose 45 per cent, with over 6000 children under 15 hospitalised in 2016.
In a media release from Auckland University, published on NZ Doctor, Professor Innes Asher outlined the "high costs of poorly controlled ashma", such as a loss of productively in the workforce or school due to patients being unwell.
"This amounts to billions of dollars lost to society," Professor Asher said. "In New Zealand, more than 3000 children each year are being admitted to hospital with asthma, and some of these will have had a potentially life-threatening attack."
"Across all age groups, hospitalisation rates are much higher for Pacific peoples (3.1 times higher) and Maori (2.4 times higher) than for other ethnic groups. Asthma costs New Zealand around $800 million each year."
Professor Asher said it was vital government policies around asthma medicines continued to be developed.
The statement said 521,000 people in New Zealand take medicine for asthma, with one death caused by the illness each week.
Housing and Development Minister Phil Twyford related the high number of hospitalisations to damp, mouldy homes.
"Anyone with an asthmatic child will understand how distressing is it watching them struggle to breath. No child should suffer like that from poor quality housing," Mr Twyford said in a statement.
He said the government is consulting with a range of people, including building science experts, tenants and landlords, around housing standards later this year.