By Erika Sward and Emma Will, American Lung Association
When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. Millions of Americans are living with a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease and the nation’s 4th leading cause of death. November is COPD Awareness Month and the American Lung Association is working to raise awareness about this disease and advocate for a dedicated program for COPD at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such a program is urgently needed. A CDC program on COPD would expand surveillance, analysis, prevention and early diagnosis of COPD. With a COPD program, CDC could help promote better understanding of the symptoms of the disease, perhaps helping more of the estimated 18 million Americans who are unaware they may have COPD to talk with their doctor and receive a diagnosis. It is also needed to help people with COPD learn to better manage their condition.
Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of COPD until the disease has progressed. There is no cure for COPD, but the sooner an individual begins treatment, the better he or she can manage the disease and prevent irreversible lung damage. Early diagnosis is critical to helping an individual maintain their optimal health status and quality of life.
With funding, CDC could engage with the full implementation of the COPD National Action Plan that was developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, CDC and other federal agencies as well as outside partners, including the American Lung Association. The COPD National Action Plan outlines five goals, including increased surveillance and research of COPD and improving the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of COPD. Integrating the Action Plan into the CDC’s work around chronic conditions would ensure that the public health promotion elements of the plan are integrated and implemented.
Dedicated funding for a COPD program at CDC could also help address the health disparities associated with COPD. Last year, CDC released important surveillance data demonstrating that the percentage of adults that are diagnosed with, hospitalized and die from COPD is significantly higher in rural areas than urban areas. A COPD program could expand research about disparities in COPD and start to explore solutions to reduce them, such as increased use of telehealth.
The American Lung Association has been leading the charge for a COPD program at CDC for over a decade. We are pleased that the House Appropriations bill on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) for FY 2020 included increased funding for CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and a new $3 million program including instructions that CDC act to address COPD. We strongly support the inclusion of COPD program funding in the final FY 2020 Labor-HHS appropriations bill and conference report.
The American Lung Association is committed to better prevention, diagnosis and treatment for the millions of Americans with COPD.