Background: Many studies have reported an increase in the prevalence of asthma and related atopic disorders. The lack of standardized methodologies and 'objective' measurements make reliable comparison and monitoring of trends of asthma very difficult.
Methods: In this study, a total of 3321 schoolchildren aged 13-14 years were recruited for study using the Phase III Protocol of the International Study of Asthma and Allergic disease in Childhood (ISAAC). The results were compared with those obtained in the Phase I ISAAC study (1994-95), which used the identical and validated core questionnaires.
Results: The prevalence rates of physicians' diagnosis of asthma were similar in the two surveys (11.2% and 10.2%), but the prevalence rates of wheeze (written questionnaire) in the past year have decreased from 12.4% in 1994-95 to 8.7% in 2002 (P<0.001). For the video questionnaire, all asthmatic symptoms in the preceding 12 months were significantly lower in 2002 when compared with those in 1994-95. Among the subjects with diagnosed asthma, the prevalence rates of wheeze in the past 12 months (written questionnaire) has decreased from 39.1% to 27.6% (P<0.001). The prevalence rates of having wheezing attack at least once per month (video questionnaire) has decreased from 10.5% to 5.6% (P=0.013).
Conclusion: Using the same standardized and validated ISAAC questionnaire, the prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren have decreased since 1994. The exact reasons for such trend remain to be explored.