Are Kiwi lifestyles in check for healthy lungs?

Are Kiwi lifestyles in check for healthy lungs?


Breathe Better September kicked-off at the start of this month, which is the first-ever respiratory awareness month in New Zealand.

Eating well, being active and being smokefree are key ingredients for a healthy life, and is also very important to reduce the symptoms or risk of respiratory disease.

Three inspiring Kiwis show that being healthy and keeping active is very beneficial for everyone, especially when living with a respiratory condition.

Alistair Harsant from Auckland competes in triathlons as a way to manage and control his severe, exercise-induced asthma.

It’s the most fantastic feeling to know that something that used to have so much control over me doesn’t anymore. It’s the combination of swimming, cycling and running that’s made the biggest difference in my wellbeing,” says Alistair.

Emily Arps from Christchurch says “I have felt many respiratory benefits from improving my diet and increasing my level of exercise. I do daily chest physio, eat and sleep well and exercise at any opportunity. I do mountain biking, kayaking, and walk and bike everywhere,” says Emily, who has a unique condition that affects only one in four million.

Pauline Mohi from Christchurch who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease says “Pulmonary rehabilitation has changed my life. It’s not that it’s easy to start off with, you’re so breathless you think, ‘This is crazy’. You just need to get past that point and keep persisting. I’m much healthier now, and can breathe a lot better than four years ago.”

Breathe Better September is in place for Kiwis to show support for better breathing and healthy lungs, while also encouraging everyone to make small changes in day-to-day life, to make a big difference on their breathing.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in the world. However, it is not highly profiled and many people don’t realise the extent of the problem. Over 700,000 Kiwis have a respiratory condition, it’s the third leading cause of death and costs the country $5.5 billion each year.

  • Respiratory disease includes asthma, bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Quick facts

  • Respiratory disease is New Zealand’s third most common cause of death.
  • Respiratory disease costs New Zealand more than $5.5 billion every year.
  • One in six (over 700,000) New Zealanders live with a respiratory condition, and these rates are worsening.
  • Respiratory disease accounts for one in eight of all hospital stays.
  • More than half of the people admitted to hospital with a poverty-related condition are there because of a respiratory problem such as asthma, bronchiolitis, acute infection or pneumonia.
  • People living in the most deprived households are admitted to hospital for respiratory illness over three times more often than people from the wealthiest areas.
  • Across all age groups, hospitalisation rates are much higher for Pacific peoples (2.6 times higher) and Māori (2.1 times higher) than for other ethnic groups (Telfar Barnard et al., 2015).