Statement made on 16 May 2012 by Senator James Cowan
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, few things are as fundamental to life as breath.
Most of us never think about it. We say that something is "as natural as breathing." When we rise in this chamber to speak on various issues, we think about the words we will say, but we never pause to worry about having the breath that will allow us to speak those words. However, for more than 2.5 million Canadians with asthma, breath is not something that can ever be taken for granted.
According to the World Health Organization, Canada has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world. It accounts for some 80 per cent of chronic respiratory disease in Canada. Every year there are 146,000 emergency room visits because of asthma attacks. Traditionally, asthma was viewed as a children's disease, but actually it affects more adults than children. In fact, the prevalence of asthma among adults has multiplied over the past number of years — from 2.3 per cent in 1979 to 8.5 per cent in 2010.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, asthma costs the Canadian economy over $1.5 billion a year. That is the economic cost. The human cost, of course, is incalculable. Honourable senators, every year approximately 20 children and 500 adults die from undiagnosed or poorly managed asthma. It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of those deaths could be prevented just with proper asthma education.
Many steps need to be taken to help Canadians suffering with chronic lung diseases such as asthma. Air pollution, school and workplace contaminants, smoking, obesity — these are just a few of the factors that can impact asthma. We know that early detection, proper treatment and better understanding and knowledge about the disease are critical for those living with asthma.
The Asthma Society of Canada is a national charitable organization devoted to helping Canadians with asthma. It focuses on research and education — working to improve those statistics and especially the outcomes for Canadian children and adults who live with asthma.
May is World Asthma Month, designed to raise awareness among Canadians about asthma. The goal: to help Canadians take control of their disease through education and research, so that ultimately all Canadians with asthma can live their lives symptom-free.
Many of us who have never experienced the suffocating shock of an asthma attack take our breath for granted. I hope for a day when all Canadians have the luxury of breathing without thought or worry.
Please join me in marking World Asthma Month and applauding the work of groups like the Asthma Society of Canada, who do so much to help Canadians with asthma to live full, symptom-free lives.