Global lung health alliance calls for action to reduce pneumonia burden

    On World COPD Day (19 November 2014), the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is mobilising its members to raise awareness and help prevent the risk factors that cause COPD.

    210 million people worldwide have COPD, and the disease causes the death of at least 2.9 million people each year. It is the sixth biggest cause of death and disability in low- and middle-income countries and is projected to be the third biggest cause of death by 2020.

    World COPD Day, which is observed in November each year, is an opportunity to highlight the impact of COPD to governments, politicians, funding agencies, clinicians, public health personnel and also the general public.

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is dedicated to raising awareness of the disease and on World COPD Day, the alliance hopes to highlight key risk factors for the disease, inform patients how available therapies can effectively manage their symptoms, and raise awareness of the significant unmet needs in combatting this global health issue.

    Risk factors for COPD

    Risk factors for COPD other than smoking tobacco are being increasingly recognised. These include environmental exposures, such as occupational exposures to dusts and fumes and indoor biomass fuel burning in many developing countries.

    Epidemiological studies indicate that the most common risk factors for COPD are age, smoking, indoor exposure to coal and workplace exposure to dust.

    Spirometry is essential for COPD diagnosis

    Underutilisation of spirometry for COPD contributes to inaccurate diagnosis. Only 20% of individuals surveyed in a population-based study had undergone spirometry at some time in their life. Spirometry training programmes, as well as the availability of spirometers in the primary care setting, are scarce and this must change.

    Access to treatment

    Patients should have access to comprehensive treatment including: education for patients and family, smoking cessation programmes, medication for symptom relief and prevention of exacerbations, pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy as prescribed.

    Prevention of smoking and exposure to pollutants, such as coal and dust, are the interventions most likely to succeed against COPD worldwide.
    ERS President-Elect Professor Jørgen Vestbo said: "COPD is the sixth major cause of death and disability in low- and middle-income countries and is projected to be the third-leading cause of death by 2020. In Europe, more than 250,000 people die every year from COPD. We have joined together with other FIRS members to highlight the impact of COPD to the public and policymakers.

    ERS President Professor Elisabeth Bel added: "Understanding the risk factors for COPD, raising awareness of the importance of spirometry and increasing access to the treatments available for patients are just some of the ways we can tackle COPD and improve the outlook for future generations. In addition to World COPD Day, the ERS/ELF Healthy Lungs for Life Campaign is another example of how we can help raise awareness of the importance of lung health, and this year we are highlighting the importance of clean air and regular lung health checks."


    Notes for editors

    More information on COPD

    210 million people worldwide have COPD, and the diseases causes the death of at least 2.9 million people each year. Individuals classified as having COPD according to GOLD criteria have nearly 2-3 times greater risk of dying compared with subjects who do not meet the spirometric criteria for COPD.

    Data from epidemiological studies coming from different regions indicate a high prevalence of the disease and that the inaccurate diagnostic labelling of COPD represents an important health problem. The prevalence of COPD has been estimated in 10 % among individuals who are 40 years or older. Underdiagnosis (i.e. meeting spirometric criteria for COPD without having been previously diagnosed as having COPD) may occur in as many as 89-90% of such individuals and misdiagnosis (i.e. having normal spirometric values, but not having previously been diagnosed as having COPD), may occur in approximately 64% of cases. Up to 70 % of the patients with COPD are undertreated.

    World COPD Day is held every November to raise awareness of the disease.

    About FIRS

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) was established in 2002, with members coming from six international societies Asociacion Latinoamericana del Thorax (ALAT), the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS). The forum aims to promote advocacy in matters of global respiratory health and the identification of new areas for global initiatives.