Local Research, Global Impact

Asthma Research – Local Research, Global Impact

asthma-research

A global issue, Hawke’s Bay, through the Foundation, has been at the coalface of research into the disease. More than six thousand children, between the age of six and fourteen years who lived in Hawke’s Bay during 1992-1993 have been part of the largest worldwide collaborative research project ever undertaken.

The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) is a unique worldwide epidemiological research programme established in 1991 to investigate asthma, rhinitis and eczema in children due to considerable concern that these conditions were increasing in western and developing countries.

When the study began there was a perception that Hawke’s Bay’s significant horticultural and farming activity might be a major factor in causing high rates of child asthma and allergies.

Hastings Pediatrician Dr David Barry, who headed the Hawke’s Bay ISAAC Team, recalls how early into the study, results found that: “Children in Hawkes Bay did indeed have high prevalence’s of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis(hay fever) and excema but the rates were the same as the other five regions studied in NZ, including three city populations.

Our horticultural activities were not therefore associated with an increased prevalence of these conditions compared to other centres.”

Children in Hawke’s Bay did indeed have high prevalence’s of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (hay fever) and excema but the rates were the same as the other five regions studied in NZ.

Over the following 20 years The Foundation provided $250,000 towards ISAAC projects where New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay played a critical role.

Hawke’s Bay was the only NZ participant in ISAAC Phase Two where more intensive investigations were made to help explain the international differences observed during the first phase.

David says this gave the team the opportunity to compare some of the new information with previous research funded by the Foundation specifically relevant to Hawke’s Bay.

“For example we were able to demonstrate an alarming increase in obesity in children over the period 1989-2000, there was also some evidence of an association between obesity and asthma but not to the degree that would explain the increasing prevalence of the disease.

ISAAC is now the world’s largest collaborative research project, involving more than 100 countries and nearly two million children.

ISAAC is now the world’s largest collaborative research project, involving more than 100 countries and nearly two million children.

“We also uncovered important dietary associations such as frequent consumption of hamburgers showing an association with asthma symptoms and frequent consumption of takeaways showed a similar association with irritable
narrowed airways.”

ISAAC at its conclusion this year was the world’s largest collaborative research project, involving more than 100 countries and nearly two million children. Its aim was to develop environmental measures and disease monitoring in order to form the basis for future interventions to reduce the burden of allergic and non-allergic diseases, especially in children in developing countries.

The ISAAC findings to date have shown that these diseases are increasing in developing countries and that they have little to do with allergy, especially in the developing world. Further population studies are urgently needed to discover more about the underlying mechanisms of non-allergic causes of asthma, rhinitis and eczema and the burden of these conditions.

Two decades on from when ISAAC began, its findings are cited by world organisations and used across the globe, with more findings yet to be published, as we continue to learn about these diseases.