'Air pollution must be reduced to minimize asthma'

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) says treating asthma costs the economy about NIS 1 billion a year.

Asthma costs the economy about NIS 1 billion a year, according to MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), who spoke at a special session of the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Tuesday. The figure was based on research carried out by the BDO company. Khenin said that the respiratory disease was a serious problem that demanded serious attention from the health authorities, as well as from those responsible for environmental protection, as asthma was worsened and sometimes triggered by air pollution. Dirty air especially affected children and the elderly, so it should be reduced immediately to minimize harm to the population, the MK said. The costs to the economy include hospitalization, medications, medical treatment in clinics and more indirect costs such as loss of work days, deaths of asthma patients and additional diseases that result from asthma, he continued. During the committee discussion, Khenin proposed establishing a national council for asthma and other respiratory diseases to advise the Health Ministry on how to cope with them and develop a comprehensive strategy for dealing with them. He noted that there are already national councils for diabetes, cancer and other major diseases. In addition, Khenin said that a number of medications that can prevent asthma attacks are available but not included in the basket of health services provided by the health funds. This prevents many patients from getting them, he said. Khenin also recommended that asthma be added to the list of chronic diseases (health indicators) that are monitored by the health funds among their members and reported to the ministry so that they will have an incentive to treat and prevent it.