Original articles

Quality of asthma care: Western Cape Province, South Africa

Bob Mash, Hilary Rhode, Michael Pather, Gillian Ainslie, Elvis Irusen, Angeni Bheekie, Pat Mayers


Asthma is the eighth leading contributor to the burden of disease in South Africa, but has received less attention than other chronic diseases. The Asthma Guidelines Implementation Project (AGIP) was established to improve the impact of the South African guidelines for chronic asthma in adults and adolescents in the Western Cape. One strategy was an audit tool to assist with assessing and improving the quality of care.

Methods. The audit of asthma care targeted all primary care facilities that managed adult patients with chronic asthma within all six districts of the Western Cape province. The usual steps in the quality improvement cycle were followed.

Results. Data were obtained from 957 patients from 46 primary care facilities. Only 80% of patients had a consistent diagnosis of asthma, 11.5% of visits assessed control and 23.2% recorded a peak expiratory flow (PEF), 14% of patients had their inhaler technique assessed and 11.2% were given a self-management plan; 81% of medication was in stock, and the controller/reliever dispensing ratio was 0.6. Only 31.5% of patients were well controlled, 16.3% of all visits were for exacerbations, and 17.6% of all patients had been hospitalised in the previous year.

Conclusion. The availability of medication and prescription of inhaled steroids is reasonable, yet control is poor. Health workers do not adequately distinguish asthma from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, do not assess control by questions or PEF, do not adequately demonstrate or assess the inhaler technique, and have no systematic approach to or resources for patient education. Ten recommendations are made to improve asthma care.

Authors' affiliations

Bob Mash, Stellenbosch University

Hilary Rhode, Asthma Guidelines Implementation Project

Michael Pather, Stellenbosch University

Gillian Ainslie, University of Cape Town

Elvis Irusen, Stellenbosch University

Angeni Bheekie, University of Western Cape

Pat Mayers, University of Cape Town

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Asthma, COPD, Quality of care, Audit

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2009;99(12):892-896.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-01-07
Date published: 2009-12-07

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