Respir Med 2009 Dec;103 Suppl 2:S38-48
Pneumology Department, Hôpital Arnaud de Villeneuve, CHU Montpellier, France.
Asthma is the most frequently encountered allergic respiratory disease, and one that has a potentially serious impact on patients' functioning and well-being. From a public health perspective, it is important to collect data on the prevalence, burden and management of asthma in order to improve understanding of the pathogenesis of asthma and to ensure that national healthcare policies are adapted and appropriate. In this respect, the different AIR surveys, which have collected standardised data on asthma in the general population of a large number of countries around the world, have made an important contribution. The latest of these surveys is the AIRMAG survey, performed in the three Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In these countries, the prevalence of asthma (3.4% to 3.9%) is in the low to moderate range. This is consistent with rates observed elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin. Nonetheless, the prevalence of asthma in the Maghreb may be expected to rise in the future as populations become more urbanized and adopt a more 'Westernized' lifestyle. Indeed the prevalence of asthma is already higher in the urban coastal regions of these countries than in the more rural mountainous and desert regions. Asthma control in the Maghreb is relatively poor compared to other regions evaluated in previous AIR studies, with control being unacceptable in around three-quarters of respondents. Although part of the explanation may reside in limited access to care, treatment rates for inhaled corticosteroids (26.1% of adults and 29.1% of children) were no worse than those reported in previous AIR studies. On the other hand, asthma monitoring through regular follow-up visits, home flow-meter use and preparation of individualised asthma management plans was in general unsatisfactory. In addition, awareness of asthma in the general population of the Maghreb countries was low. Education measures directed at the patient, together with programmes directed at the physician to ensure systematic monitoring and the use of a 'treat to target' approach to therapy, could do much to increase quality of life and minimise restrictions on activities in patients with asthma in the Maghreb.