Featured medical condition centres: February

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In the spotlight for February:


Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the bronchi (the airways) in the chest. It’s a long-term (chronic) condition that can worsen to produce acute asthma attacks with increasing shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing (when you hear a whistling sound as you breathe), and tightness of the chest.

With asthma, the airways become inflamed in response to an allergy or trigger such as house dust mites, exercise, sulphites in food, viruses, cold weather, smoke and pollen. When exposed to the trigger, the airways constrict (become narrow), reducing the airflow to the lungs.


The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, with smoking remaining the number-one preventable cause of death worldwide. Currently, there are about 1.1 billion smokers worldwide – a seventh of the world’s population.

Every year, an estimated 7 million people die from tobacco-related diseases across the globe. Tobacco kills up to half of its users, while close to 900 000 of these deaths are non-smokers dying from second-hand smoke inhalation. Tobacco use costs the world more than $1 trillion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity every year.

Nearly 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low-and middle-income countries. In these countries, says the World Health Organization (WHO), the burden of illness and death is often the heaviest. Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care, and hinder economic development.

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