Winner Against Asthma

GSK relaunches asthma campaign
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

What does football star David Beckham, vocalists Arnel Pineda (Journey) and Bono (U2), beauty queen MJ Lastimosa, actresses Jessica Alba and Kim Chiu, as well as Pinoy figure skater Michael Christian Martinez all have in common? They’re all asthmatics who have excelled in their respective crafts.
According to the 2011 Global Asthma Report, it is estimated that the condition affects around 235 million people worldwide with 250,000 international deaths recorded annually. In the global initiative for asthma (GINA) report for management and prevention that was published in the same year, it pinpointed that another hundred million people are projected to suffer from the disease by 2025.
“Asthma is a long-standing lung disease that narrows the body’s airways. Inflammation of inner vessels constricts the respiratory passage when attacks are triggered. Genetics as well as environmental factors are some of its causes. Our goal is to control the disease so patients don’t live boxed lives. Knowing already wins half the battle,” intoned GSK medical director Dr. Manuel Yu Silos.
The 2006 European Respiratory Review (ERR) observed that in the Philippines there are over ten million cases of people with asthma.  And 53 per cent of patients regularly use rescue medication at least once daily to cope with their symptoms. While an earlier publication, the Int’l Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC, 1995), stated that it remains the most common chronic disease of childhood morbidity as measured by school absences, emergency visits and hospitalizations.
The ERR went on to show that in the Asia Pacific, which includes the Philippines, activity limitation was considerable. A mean of 44.7 per cent of respondents reported that normal physical activity was compromised, and 37.9 per cent believed that their choice of jobs or career options was limited. Moreover, 37.6 per cent believed their lifestyles was restricted, almost half reported sleep disturbances, and 52.7 per cent of the respondents said that sports and recreation were affected. The latter number could still be up for contention. My younger brother who’s been an asthmatic from his early childhood decided to undergo football training in high school. To this day, his former attacks have not materialized. This was probably also the perspective taken by football star Beckham.
“Proper breathing affects the physiology of the body and its immune system. It is proof of life. Thus, it makes one feel alive. Asthma cannot be cured but it can be controlled and managed with the right doctor, right medication and a modified lifestyle. So patients get to live their lives while reaching their maximum potential. We started this campaign last year with Kim Chiu and Arnel Pineda.
“Asthma is a disease; a medical condition that afflicts people starting at a young age. One out of ten Pinoys have this ailment and 98 per cent of these are poorly controlled. With increasing urbanization, pollution levels will rise and, with it, more will be affected,” elucidated GSK president and general manager Francis del Val.
The 2013 Allergy Report concluded that despite the availability of treatment guidelines and medicines for the alleviation and management of asthma, the majority of patients remain to be uncontrolled thus leading to compromised lives. Uncontrolled asthma is associated with a reduced lung function, impaired performance in physical activities, and an impaired quality of life. As bolstered by a corollary study, AIRAP 2, it was seen that only one per cent of children with asthma in the Philippines are well-controlled.
To curb the increasing number of uncontrolled cases, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) launched the Search for Winners Against Asthma (SWAA) 2015 crusade recently. The campaign aims to choose and recognize ten young achievers from different walks of life. The advocacy likewise introduces Olympic figure skater Michael Christian Martinez as the new face of the initiative. An asthmatic, Michael began experiencing bronchitis when he was just two months old.
He recalls being in the hospital frequently and says the cold rink actually helped improve his condition. “Year after year, my health kept improving. So my mother fully supported my decision to continue skating, saying it was better to spend money on the rink than in the hospital,” declared Michael.
The SWAA is a nationwide search for young asthmatic achievers aged 30 and younger who are outstanding in their respective fields, despite having the chronic condition, to inspire other sufferers that they too can win against asthma.
In its official corporate profile, the GSK revealed that ninety per cent of asthma patients expect to have symptoms as part of their conditions. The rationale for the choice of a targeted age group was driven by the fact that asthma is one of the most important chronic diseases during childhood causing substantial morbidity, as raised by the 1995 ISAAC study.
More severe attacks can lead to more frequent school absenteeism, which may negatively affect a young person’s level of learning, and, possibly, a choice of vocation. Those within this age group are still in the process of developing the necessary know-how and skills that will enable them to achieve life goals and asthma should never deter them from realizing their full potential. 
The 2006 Thorax study states that asthma can be a serious condition but it can be controlled. Access to doctors and treatment has been shown to significantly decrease deaths and hospitalizations. Therefore, people with asthma can lead normal and active lives. And, like the campaign ambassadors, can even excel in their field. It was therefore necessary to raise the awareness level this early so the young are guided to win against it.
“The Philippines’ urban centers are polluted places so younger patients living therein easily show symptoms of coughing and wheezing in severe cases. Asthma can manifest at any given age. Allergy tests can help pinpoint what factors, like food, to avoid. We need to control the condition but never a child’s activity,” advised pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Nep Ordonez.
The SWAA nomination period will run until May 2015 and will be touring different schools as well as drugstore outlets to spread the initiative and invite more people to join in the fight against asthma. Deadline for submission of entries online is on March 31, 2015 and entries will be screened during the weeks of April. When the World Asthma Day unfolds on May 5th, the top twenty finalists will be announced and online voting follows thereafter. The Top 10 winners will be announced and awarded before the end of May 2015.
“This will be a poll on Facebook. Submitted applications will be narrowed down to ten in each category based on the following criteria: Diagnosis by a certified physician; Filipino citizen residing in the Philippines; and an achiever in his/her chosen field or, in the case of students, academic excellence. Nominees will fall either under the 10 to 19 year-olds age group or the 20-30 age bracket. Each category of five winners will each receive a prize package of Php48,000 (tax-free),” enthused medical affairs director Dr. Bernadette Arcilla.
This advocacy is supported by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP), and the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (PSAAI).

GSK, one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceuticals and healthcare companies, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better, and live longer. For further information on this campaign, simply visit the company’s social network site,  


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