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National income, self-reported wheezing and asthma diagnosis from the World Health Survey.

Eur Respir J. 2010 Feb;35(2):279-86 Sembajwe G, Cifuentes M, Tak SW, Kriebel D, Gore R, Punnett L. Dept of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

The aims of this study were to quantify and describe the variations in respiratory symptoms and diagnosis prevalence across regions of the world according to national income.

In 2002 and 2003, the World Health Organization implemented the World Health Survey (WHS), which used a standardised survey instrument to compile comprehensive baseline information on health and healthcare expenditure. We analysed the WHS data to assess the global patterns of self-reported wheeze and doctor-diagnosed asthma, two commonly reported measures of respiratory health. In total there were 308,218 participants with complete records, from 64 countries. The weighted mean age of the survey population was 43 yrs. Global prevalence of current wheezing symptoms ranged from 2.4% in Vietnam to 24% in Brazil; the prevalence of diagnosed asthma ranged from 1.8% in Vietnam to 32.8% in Australia. Overall, the prevalence of symptoms and diagnosis showed a U-shaped pattern with the largest prevalence reported in low- and high-income countries. The smallest prevalence was consistently found in middle-income countries.

These WHS analyses have provided global prevalence estimates of wheeze and doctor-diagnosed asthma using data gathered simultaneously and consistently across six continents.
These findings support the need for continued global respiratory illness surveillance for disease prevention, health policy and management.

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