Objectives: To determine (i) the relationship between asthma management and socioeconomic status; (ii) whether recent estimates from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) conducted in Melbourne apply to a broader cross-section of Victorian children; and (iii) age-related trends in asthma prevalence.
Design: A questionnaire survey, based on the ISAAC protocol.
Participants and setting: Subjects were children aged 4-13 years from a random sample of primary schools in the Barwon region of Victoria. The survey was conducted between March and September 2005.
Main outcome measures: Parent-reported wheeze and wheeze-related use of health resources during the preceding 12 months.
Results: Questionnaires were returned by 7813/9258 students (84%). Lower socioeconomic status was associated with increased frequency of regular asthma reviews (P < 0.01 for trend), but not of emergency department visits (P = 0.19). The prevalence of wheeze among 6- and 7-year-old children in the Barwon region was similar to that in Melbourne children (20.2% v 20.0%, respectively). There was an age-related increase in the proportion of children with > or = 12 episodes of wheeze (P = 0.01); but an age-related decrease in emergency department visits (P = 0.02).
Conclusions: Disadvantaged children have good access to regular asthma reviews and are no more likely to attend an emergency department with an episode of acute wheeze. Asthma prevalence in 6- and 7-year-old children in the Barwon region is similar to that in Melbourne. The prevalence of children with very frequent wheeze increases with age, but their use of health resources decreases.