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Lockdown Air Quality Boost in Oxford Led to Reduced Asthma Hospital Stays

Lockdown Air Quality Boost in Oxford Led to Reduced Asthma Hospital Stays
24 January 2024
 

New research shows that asthmatics in Oxford had fewer hospital stays in 2020, largely due to reduced air pollution during the national lockdown.

Falling pollution levels strongly correlated with lower rates of acute asthma care provision for adult residents in the four postcodes in Oxford city, falling from 78 per 100k residents in 2015-19, to 46 per 100k residents, a reduction of 41 per cent.

The study team, led by the University of Birmingham working with the University of Oxford, Oxfordshire County and City Councils and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group concluded that demand for NHS inpatient care may change when air quality is improved.

In 2020, there were two national COVID-19 lockdowns between March-June and November-December. Levels of air pollution fell significantly, with different pollutants dropping by between 18-33 per cent. Nitrogen Dioxide, which inflames airways and is particularly harmful to people with lung and heart conditions, reduced by 26.7 per cent.

 

“The results of air pollution levels falling may have had an impact on the number of severe asthma cases that need acute hospital care, with 41 per cent fewer hospital stays compared to the previous five-year average."

–Dr Suzanne Bartington

Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health, University of Birmingham

 

Dr Suzanne Bartington, Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the study said:

“The impact of lockdowns on reductions in traffic and industry led to a unique situation where air quality significantly improved for a temporary period during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study shows that for Oxford, levels of major air pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter fell sharply on a background of ongoing improvements in recent years.

“The results of air pollution levels falling may have had an impact on the number of severe asthma cases that need acute hospital care, with 41 per cent fewer hospital stays compared to the previous five-year average.

“This is an important study to help us better understand how demand for NHS inpatient care may change when air quality is improved. Whereas previous studies on lockdown air pollution have focused on major cities in the UK such as London or Birmingham, Oxford is more typical of a smaller city or large town where many residents live.”

Picture: a photograph of Dr Suzanne Bartington​. Image Credit: University of Birmingham 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 24 January 2024

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