World Asthma Day 2024

This year, World Asthma Day (WAD) 2024 takes place on Tuesday 7 May. This annual event is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), a World Health Organization collaborative organization.

WAD is held each year to raise awareness of asthma worldwide. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks.

GINA has chosen ‘Asthma Education Empowers’ as the theme for the 2024 World Asthma Day.

In the UK, people are still missing out on the basic care they need to manage their asthma, putting them at greater risk of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

Good asthma care includes having an asthma review after every attack and at least once a year, knowing how to use your inhaler correctly, having a written asthma action plan and knowing about the potential impact of air pollution on your asthma.

Read more about how asthma services have transformed in London for Children and Young People in the last ten years in the blog below. 

Asthma blog 

Transforming Asthma Services in London for Children and Young People: A Decade of Progress since NRAD

Sara Nelson, Joint Head of Children and Young People’s Transformation Programme, NHS England – London region

Asthma affects around 1 in 9 children and young people, that is over 200,000 in London. As an asthma sufferer myself, I understand first-hand the challenges it poses to daily life, the importance of effective self-management and the avoidance of triggers.

In 2014 I set up the London asthma programme, aiming to curb the rising mortality and morbidity rates associated with asthma in our capital city. Shortly after, the seminal National Review of Asthma deaths was published. It has now been 10 years since its publication which has allowed me some time for reflection.

Setting Ambitions and Standards

Our journey began with a clear vision: to elevate asthma care standards in London through our London ambitions.  We consolidated existing policies and national standards into the comprehensive London Asthma Standards for Children and Young People, ensuring clarity and coherence for both commissioners and providers. To facilitate implementation, we introduced the London Asthma Toolkit, a repository of practical resources and tools for whole system-wide adoption of best practices. It’s heartening to see that our efforts have contributed to the National Asthma Bundle of Care.

Milestones and Achievements

A decade on, our progress is evident, despite resource constraints, with much good will from clinical and allied health professionals across the capital.  One of our proudest achievements is the exponential growth of asthma nursing in London. From a handful of nurses at the program’s inception, we now boast a robust cadre of over 85 clinical nurse specialists, fostering collaboration, meeting quarterly to share best practice, and providing invaluable virtual support to one another.

Alongside this, the introduction of asthma friendly schools, which aim to create inclusive, supportive environments where students with asthma can thrive academically, socially, and physically while effectively managing their asthma symptoms, has been hugely positive. These schools play a crucial role in promoting the health and well-being of students with asthma and reducing barriers to their education.

Addressing Root Causes: Prevention and Early Recognition

Preventative measures remain paramount, especially in combating the detrimental effects of air pollution on respiratory health. Exposure to pollutants can impact on children and young people’s current and future health, as strong evidence suggest it impairs lung growth in children.  Diesel emissions, a significant contributor to nitrogen dioxide levels, continue to pose a threat. Through partnerships with public health and the Mayor’s health team and initiatives like the London Air Quality Strategy, we’re actively advocating for tangible improvements.  We should take action both individually and organisationally to improve both indoor and outdoor air quality. There’s more information here, including on how we need to address improvements in damp and mould.

Early Recognition

We need to ensure that children and young people get diagnosed early and are provided with the right treatment and management at the right time and in the right place.  Generally, this care should be provided within the community, but when appropriate referral to hospital may be required for specialist advice.  Further information is available here.

Education and Training for Effective Care

Ensuring healthcare professionals are equipped with up-to-date, evidence-based knowledge is crucial. Initially we trained over 75 professionals through the Education for Health Asthma Diploma and provided access to free eLearning resources. Additionally, we’ve tailored educational materials for pharmacists, schools, and non-healthcare professionals, fostering a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to asthma care.

Integration and Self-Management

Integrating care services and empowering individuals with self-management skills are central tenets of our approach. One key element of the asthma programme in London is through encouraging new models of care and different ways of working.  Schools play a pivotal role in providing a safe, supportive environment for students with asthma, while pharmacists serve as accessible sources of information and assistance.

Self-management is crucial and our #AskAboutAsthma awareness campaign emphasizes the importance of written action plans, proper inhaler use, and regular asthma reviews for effective self-management, in conjunction with consideration of air pollution and its impact on lung health. The #AAA campaign has gone from strength to strength over the past 8 years, and now welcomes involvement and collaboration from across the country.

Our #rightinhalerimage campaign, a grassroots initiative to promote accurate and informative portrayals of inhalers in media, aimed to improve awareness, understanding, and acceptance of inhaler use, ultimately empowering individuals to manage their asthma more effectively. This work has found a new home with the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG). This partnership marks a significant milestone in our journey. Together, we share a vision of empowering patients and healthcare professionals worldwide, through accurate representation and education about inhaler use.

Looking Ahead

As we reflect on our achievements, we recognize the urgency of our mission and realise there has been much we haven’t achieved. Tragic incidents continue to underscore the need for sustained action – children and young people die every year from asthma in London. Through continued collaboration with our partners, we are committed to driving systemic improvements in asthma care. Together, let’s build a legacy of health and resilience for London’s children and young people.

I am grateful for the dedication of our asthma leadership group and the unwavering support of clinicians, managers, and many other stakeholders. Yet, there’s much work ahead. Let’s harness the momentum of our social movement for change and continue striving towards a healthier, asthma-resilient London.

I could go on but essentially you can check out all this and more on the NHS England — London » Asthma page. Please consider making your own (or organisational) pledge to help improve the care of children and young people with asthma in the capital and let’s make London the healthiest global city. Keep your eyes peeled for this year’s #AskAboutAsthma campaign on 9-15September.

Sara Nelson RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, Queens Nurse


Download the World Asthma Day 2024 Communications Toolkit

Access tailored information in the London asthma toolkit for children and young people 

Learning from NWL about over-reliance on SABAs

Alison Summerfield, Nurse Consultant Hillingdon Hospitals;  Darush Attah-Zadeh, Clinical Fellow Respiratory Pharmacist at Imperial College & Co-Chair of the CYP Pharmacy Asthma Group

How NEL are using their ICS pilot to focus on deprivation

Laura King, Highly Specialist Practitioner for Children & Young People’s Asthma for North-East London

How can an air pollution clinic support CORE20PLUS5 CYP asthma deliverables?

Abi Whitehouse, Paediatric Respiratory Consultant, Royal London Hospital

How Whipps Cross are using their 48-hour review pilot to support CORE20PLUS5

Amutha Anpananthar, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Training Programme Director, London School of Paediatrics