Objective: To examine evolving changes in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in South Australia and Australia as a whole from the perspective of hospital admissions, ventilatory support and mortality data.
Design: Retrospective analyses, for the period 1993-2003, of hospital separations data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Integrated South Australian Activity Collection, and mortality data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and South Australian hospital morbidity collection.
Main outcome measures: Hospital separations, ventilatory support episodes, mortality rates, burden-of-disease rankings.
Results: Between 1993 and 2003, in SA and nationally, hospital separations for asthma declined but separations for COPD increased significantly. Falling mortality rates from asthma in both men and women, and from COPD in men, contrast with increasing rates of COPD-related hospitalisation and mortality in women.
Conclusions: Hospital admissions and mortality associated with asthma have fallen. Admission rates for COPD are declining for men, but there is no indication that admission rates for women have reached a peak. There is a need for higher prioritisation of COPD, including policies to reduce smoking in women, and medical practice initiatives to support primary and secondary prevention, pulmonary rehabilitation and appropriate drug therapies.