New data shows asthma rates vary between DHB

2 Jul 2014 | Health Quality Intelligence

A new way of presenting data has found hospital admission rates for asthma and indicators of asthma management vary between district health boards (DHBs).

Data published in the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s asthma domain on the Atlas of Healthcare Variation shows about 5000 children a year went to hospital with asthma or wheeze, with a three-fold difference between DHBs.

Māori and Pacific children had higher hospital admission rates than non-Māori, non-Pacific children – 6.5 out of 1000 Māori children, compared to 12 out of 1000 Pacific children and 3.6 out of 1000 children of other ethnicities.

About 3000 adults a year went to hospital with asthma, with a two- or three-fold variation between DHBs. Some DHBs reported consistently high or low rates. Previous studies have found that socioeconomic conditions in different areas do not completely explain these differences.

Women, Māori and Pacific adults had significantly higher rates of admission.

Asthma is treated using both reliever and preventer medication. Ideally, when both are used there should be low use of relievers and regular higher use of preventers, but Māori and Pacific people used reliever medication more than non-Māori, non-Pacific people.

The Atlas is an online tool showing variation between health care received by people in different DHBs. It is designed to stimulate debate among medical professionals, patients and providers of health services. It aims to encourage changes in practice to reduce unwarranted differences in access to health care, or in health care outcomes.

Professor Julian Crane, of the Wellington Asthma Research Group, says New Zealand’s hospital admission rates for asthma ranked fourth highest of OECD countries. In children, asthma was one of the most common reasons for hospital admission.

‘We make this information publicly available to stimulate debate among health care professionals about why these differences exist and what might explain them,’ he says.

For more information about the Atlas of Healthcare Variation, visit

Last updated 02/07/2014