On World Lung Day FIRS calls for global investment in respiratory health

    On World Lung Day FIRS calls for global investment in respiratory health

    Respiratory diseases a leading cause of death worldwide, despite being preventable and economical to treat.

    Embargoed 25 September 2021: Cape Town, Glenview, Lausanne, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Tokyo

    Today, on World Lung Day (WLD), members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) and WLD partner organisations are calling for respiratory health to be a top priority in global decision-making beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

    According to the Global Impact of Respiratory Disease report, launched today, despite cost-effective health interventions being available, respiratory diseases remain a leading cause of death and disability. Nearly 200 million people, or 4% of the world’s population, have COPD and 3.2 million die of it each year, making it the third-leading cause of death worldwide.

    In the context of the current global COVID-19 pandemic it is easy to overlook the lethality and disabling impacts of ongoing respiratory illnesses. For example, even in a ‘normal’ year asthma affects more than 350 million people and is the most common chronic disease of childhood worldwide. Pneumonia kills more than 2.4 million people annually and is a leading cause of death among children younger than five and adults older than 65. More than 10 million people develop TB and 1.4 million die of it each year, making it the most common lethal infectious disease next to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The current COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 4.5 million people, largely  from respiratory causes.

    Lung cancer kills 1.8 million people each year. In addition, there is a need to tackle air pollution, with at least 2.4 billion people exposed to indoor air pollution, and 90% of all people breathing outdoor air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, especially in low- and middle-income countries. More than 1.3 billion people are exposed to tobacco smoke.

    “It is urgent to place acute and chronic respiratory diseases on the high priority list of actions at every level and change the future of respiratory and general health worldwide”, says Mark Cohen, President FIRS 2021-2022.

    “Interventions to prevent and treat respiratory diseases are among the most cost-effective available—a “best-buy” in the view of the WHO. Genuine investment in respiratory health will pay exponential dividends in longevity, healthy living days, and national economies.”

    FIRS calls for these essential actions to reduce the burden of respiratory disease and improve global health:

    • Improve awareness among the public and policy makers that respiratory health is vital to global health and that childhood respiratory disease has long-term negative consequences on adult health.
    • Reduce, and then eliminate, use of all tobacco and smoking products.
    • Adopt and adhere to WHO standards, at a minimum, to reduce ambient, indoor, and occupational air pollution for all countries.
    • Implement universal access to quality health care, including the availability of affordable, quality-assured, essential medicines, oxygen and universal coverage for all effective childhood and adult immunizations including vaccinations for COVID-19.
    • Improve the prevention and early diagnosis of respiratory diseases.
    • Increase education and training of health-care professionals in respiratory disease worldwide.
    • Standardize the monitoring and reporting of respiratory diseases to enable development of better-informed national strategies through WHO and governmental and nongovernmental organizations programs.
    • Boost funding for respiratory research to develop programs, tools, and strategies to better prevent and treat respiratory diseases

    Significant progress on these issues will help to eliminate respiratory diseases from the top 10 leading causes of death in the world.

    About World Lung Day

    World Lung Day is an annual lung health awareness day, occurring yearly on 25 September. To date nearly 200 organisations and many more individuals support WLD through lung heath advocacy and action. This year, with respiratory health firmly in the spotlight, it is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the burden of respiratory disease. To learn more about World Lung Day and download the fact sheet, graphics go to the World Lung Day Toolkit.

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.

    Media contact: Fiona Salter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    World Lung Day 2021 Partners

    WLD logo final large

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) would like to thank all organisations who have pledged to support World Lung Day (WLD).

    WLD falls on 25th September and is a day to rally advocacy for respiratory health and air quality globally. You can see the full list of organisations supporting WLD 2020 below.

    No signed up yet?

    If you would like to support WLD please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    View WLD partner logos below or view the World Lung Day partner list.

    The 2021 World Lung Day toolkit will be available soon. 

    World Asthma Day: 5 May 2021

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Asthma Report, more than 339 million people suffer from asthma, which can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. The WHO estimates that in 2016, 420,000 people died from asthma – 1,150 each day. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to control the disease to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes.

    This year’s World Asthma Day theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions”. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) joins this call to action, to address common widely held myths and misconceptions concerning asthma that prevent people with asthma from enjoying optimal benefit from the major advances in the management of this condition.

    Common misconceptions surrounding asthma include:

    1. Asthma is a childhood disease; individuals will grow out of it as they age.
    2. Asthma is infectious.
    3. Asthma sufferers should not exercise.
    4. Asthma is only controllable with high dose steroids.

    The truth is:

    1. Asthma can occur at any age (in children, adolescents, adults and the elderly).
    2. Asthma is not infectious. However, viral respiratory infections (such as the common cold and the flu) can cause asthma attacks. In children, asthma is frequently associated with allergy, but asthma which starts in adulthood is less often allergy-related.
    3. When asthma is well-controlled, asthma subjects are able to exercise and even perform in top sports.
    4. Asthma is most often controllable with low-dose inhaled steroids.

    This year is the 23rd annual World Asthma Day, an event recognised each May to raise awareness of asthma worldwide.

    World Asthma Day was first held in 1998 and has grown each year to become one of the most important asthma events globally. On World Asthma Day, hundreds of awareness-raising activities will take place in countries all over the world.

    FIRS invites everyone to participate in World Asthma Day events on the 5th May, 2021. Further information about GINA and World Asthma Day can be found at ginasthma.org.

    World No Tobacco Day 2021

    On World No Tobacco Day (31 May, 2021) the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), calls on governments and policymakers to make greater political and financial commitments to support and promote tobacco cessation services.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco use kills more than 8 million people each year. Tobacco use also remains the main and most preventable cause of lung disease among both adults and children, and it is well-understand that the “big five” respiratory diseases (asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia) and other acute lower respiratory tract infections are caused or worsened by tobacco product use and second-hand smoke exposure.

    Despite this, smoking-cessation treatment remains poorly implemented in healthcare around the world; according to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, only 23 countries worldwide offer cessation services that WHO describes as meeting best-practice levels.

    Tobacco and nicotine addiction is not a lifestyle choice, but a chronic relapsing disorder that should be treated accordingly. When nicotine, the psychoactive component of tobacco, is inhaled, it reaches the brain rapidly and is highly addictive. Most smokers want to quit, but evidence has shown that only 3–5 percent of people who attempt to quit without professional medical support succeed after 6 months, highlighting the need for professional assistance when quitting tobacco.

    In support of WHO’s World No Tobacco Day 2021 year-long global campaign to help 100 million people quit tobacco, FIRS urges policymakers and healthcare regulators to act urgently to:

    • Make greater political and financial commitments to support tobacco and nicotine product cessation services that provide evidence-based effective treatments, including behavioural support or motivational interviewing in combination with pharmacotherapy.
    • Optimise health systems by providing system-level tobacco cessation interventions, from primary care to secondary care, community programmes, and internet support.
    • Support the implementation and enforcement of comprehensive tobacco control policies, such as those outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to prevent tobacco product use and protect public health.

    The unprecedented response to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates more than ever the importance and effectiveness of making meaningful policy changes to tackle health challenges. FIRS urges policymakers to act now and help people to quit tobacco for good, protect public health and save lives, and reduce the burden on healthcare systems that is caused by tobacco product use.

    For more information about FIRS please contact Lisa Roscoe: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    World Lung Day 2021: Care for Your Lungs

    World Lung Day (WLD), 25 September, is a day for lung health advocacy and action, an opportunity for us all to unite and promote better lung health globally.

    If you haven't joined yet, sign up as a WLD partner by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., all our partners are included on our partners page

    World Lung Day Toolkit

    Taking care of our lungs is now more important than ever. So, this year on 25 September, we will be asking the world to ‘care for your lungs’ and keep them healthy.

    The 2021 WLD theme will focus on:

    Care for Your Lungs:

    • Say no to tobacco
    • Protect them through vaccination
    • Breathe clean air
    • Take regular physical exercise

    Say no to tobacco

    Tobacco causes 8 million deaths every year and is the main cause of many lung diseases. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and can cause cancer.

    Stopping smoking is the best way to improve your lung health and overall health.

    Quitting tobacco has the potential to reverse some of the damage done by tobacco smoke to the lungs, but not all. Early cessation is therefore essential to preventing the onset of chronic lung disease, which is irreversible once developed. The benefits of quitting tobacco are almost immediate.

    • After just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate drops.
    • Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
    • Within 2–12 weeks, your circulation improves and lung function increases.
    • Within 1–9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
    • Within 5–15 years, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
    • Within 10 years, your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker.
    • Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

    Care for your lungs, say no to tobacco. Here are some resources to help you:


    Say no to vaping

    Vaping is the use of an electronic system to deliver inhaled drugs, most commonly nicotine and cannabinoids (natural or synthetic forms of marijuana).

    There is increasing evidence that inhaled nicotine from e-cigarettes damages lung tissue and lowers the body’s natural resistance to infections and to cancers and emissions from these devices are hazardous to lungs.

    Care for your lungs, say no to vaping. Here are some resources to help you:

    Protect your lungs through vaccination

    Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences, the immune system, to recognise and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. If the body is exposed to those germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them thereby preventing illness.

    Getting vaccinated can protect you from lots of different infectious diseases and help you keep your lungs healthy. Pneumococcal pneumonia, COVID-19, influenza and whooping cough are examples of respiratory infections that can be prevented by vaccination.

    Vaccination can also help to protect other people. People can be protected if those close to them (like friends and family members) and enough people in their communities (including healthcare professionals) are vaccinated, because it stops infections from spreading.

    People with a lung condition or other health conditions can be at a higher risk from lung infections. You can prevent some of these infections by getting vaccinated.

    Care for your lungs, protect them through vaccination. Here are some resources to help you:

    Breathe clean air

    Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

    Air pollution has a negative impact on human health and exposure to it can affect 100% of the population, from unborn babies to the very elderly. The lungs are the first point of entry for air pollution into the body and are therefore the first affected organ. Air pollution affects everyone−rich and poor, developed and developing countries, but it hits the hardest where the exposure is greatest, low and middle-income countries.

    Care for your lungs, breathe clean air. Here are some resources to help you:

    Take regular physical activity

    Regular physical activity and exercise improves quality of life, whether you are healthy or you have a lung condition. Many people associate keeping fit with maintaining a healthy heart, losing weight and reducing the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, but exercise also helps keep lungs healthy.

    When you exercise, your heart beats faster and your lungs work harder. Your body needs more oxygen to fuel your muscles. Your lungs step up their activity to deliver that oxygen while expelling additional carbon dioxide. In addition, your lungs expand during exercise compared to when not exercising, preventing compression of lower lung areas.

    It is best to ask the guidance of a doctor or physiotherapist before you begin changing your activity levels, to ensure that your plans are in line with your capacity and are safe. All exercise and physical activity programmes must be built up over time to allow the body to adapt.

    Care for your lungs, take regular physical activity. Here are some resources to help you:


    Partner Graphics

    Please help us raise the profile of World Lung Day by sharing the save the date graphics via your own communication channels. We also have a 'Proud to be a World Lung Day Partner' graphic, add your own logo to the blank white circle and share on social media. 

    Please use #WorldLungDay on social media.

    We have also created graphics to use on World Lung Day and in the build up to the day. These are below.

    There are also blank versions of each, which you can use to add your own language to the graphic. 

    Download image template (no text) Download image template (no text)
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    World Lung Day Events

    Will you be holding a WLD event this year?

    We encourage you to arrange your own local, regional or national public education activities, where possible, to help spread the important messages of the campaign across the globe this WLD.

    To support you with your activities, you can apply for a Healthy Lungs for Life grant of up to €1,000. Healthy Lungs for Life is a global awareness campaign run by the European Lung Foundation (ELF) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS), a FIRS founding member.

    Apply before Saturday 31 July for a chance to receive a grant for your WLD activities.

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