The proportion of total health expenditure attributed to asthma care is highest for children-particularly boys aged 5-14 years, according to a new report released by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM)-a collaborating unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Heath Care Expenditure and the Burden of Disease due to Asthma in Australia, 2000-1 shows that across all age groups 1.4% of total recurrent health expenditure (an estimated $693 million) was spent on treating asthma in 2000-01.
However, in the 5-14 years age group the proportion spent on asthma in boys was 5.5%. For girls in the same age range the proportion was 3.2%.
The proportions spent on asthma in 0-4 year olds were also relatively high, at 4.1% and 4.2% for boys and girls respectively.
Young children aged 0-4 years also had the highest per capita rate of asthma expenditure among the Australian population. In this age range it costs an average of $76 per boy and $66 per girl to treat the illness each year.
Overall, more than a quarter of total asthma expenditure in the health sector (hospital care, out-of-hospital care, and pharmaceuticals) was for children aged 0-14 years. In particular, nearly half (46%) of all hospital expenditure for asthma was for this age group.
ACAM Director, Dr Guy Marks, said many features of the distribution of expenditure are predictable given the nature of the disease, its treatment and known epidemiology.
'Hospitalisation rates are highest in children, so the proportion of asthma expenditure attributable to hospital care for children is greater than for adults,' Dr Marks said.
'More boys than girls have the disease. However, after teenage years, asthma is more common in women than in men-this is also reflected in the expenditure patterns.'
'Pharmaceuticals provide the major component in the treatment of asthma so it is no surprise that over half (54%) of health expenditure allocated to asthma in 2000-01 was attributed to pharmaceuticals. This is significantly higher than the proportion of the total health expenditure attributed to pharmaceuticals (16%).
Heath Care Expenditure and the Burden of Disease due to Asthma in Australia, 2000-1 shows that between 1993-94 and 2000-01 there was a 21% real increase in asthma health expenditure, which was less than the 26% increase in overall health expenditure for the same period.
Spending on out-of-hospital care for asthma (GPs and specialists) fell by 18% over the same period while overall out-of-hospital care expenditure rose by 16%.
Dr Marks said the economic burden of asthma in terms of years of life lived with a disability was similar to diabetes, injury and cancer, but that there were fewer deaths associated with asthma.