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Extra funds fight asthma

Extra funding has been invested to help people suffering with asthma. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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Another winter has arrived, and asthma is still a prominent problem in Wairarapa.

As reported in the Wairarapa District Health Board’s agenda for May, an extra $40,000 a year will be invested in Whaiora Whanui Trust to help overcome the issue.

The purpose of this investment was to provide home assessments and cover the cost of remedies to homes to provide warmer, drier homes.

“Along with winter, covid-19 impact is significant for a number of our families,” the report said.

Jason Kerehi. PHOTO FILE

Jason Kerehi, executive leader of Maori Health at the Wairarapa DHB said there were several asthma factors to consider in Wairarapa.

“We have the second worst air pollution levels in the country, after Christchurch”, and many homes were damp – especially rental properties that landlord’s use as investment properties.

According to the most up to date Statistics NZ figures from 2018, 288 homes were recorded as always damp and 2469 were recorded as sometimes damp.

Kerehi also pointed to people’s preference to burn real wood fires, which lessened air quality, instead of using heat pumps.

“It’s the geographical layout of the valley where the towns are – it’s like an inverted fishbowl,” he said.

“The way winter works here is there’s an inversion layer that sits across the top of the valley and it just keeps all the wood smoke trapped.

“All this leads to a higher than average rate of admission into ED for our 0-4-year-old Maori who are coming in with respiratory problems.”

Poverty is a contributing factor – “it’s all to do with renting rather than owning” and being forced to live in poor quality housing, Kerehi said.

“The other fact about Wairarapa is that it has the lowest average income in the whole country for any province, so these are factors that lead to health outcomes.”

The median annual income in Masterton is $27,000 compared with a national median of $31,000.

Having worked at the Wairarapa DHB for more than five years, Kerehi said the issues are understood and the “solutions to that are not something the health system can necessarily fix”.

In 2018, the Impact of Respiratory Disease in New Zealand report found the asthma rate in Wairarapa was among the highest in the country with the disease killing about three people and hospitalising more than 70 each year.

Kerehi said the solution was “about housing, it’s about good jobs, it is about our air quality”.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council educates and offers schemes for people to move to cleaner burning.

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