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New Survey Reveals Impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Free Local Screenings Offer Early Detection, Better Quality of Life

YOUR CITY, STATE (DATE MAILED) -- It affects twice as many Americans as diabetes1, is the nation's fourth leading cause of death2, and costs the U. S. economy an estimated $31.9 billion a year3 -- twice the amount associated with asthma. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is becoming an epidemic in our country yet millions of people do not realize they are at risk.

"It's the Rodney Dangerfield of chronic diseases," said respiratory therapist Sam Giordano, RRT, executive director of American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). But he believes better public screenings and better education for both doctors and patients will help.

Based the study's findings, the AARC is joining the American Lung Association (ALA), the National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP) and the American College of Chest Physicians in a national education campaign to raise awareness about the condition.

To further those efforts here in [YOUR TOWN/CITY], respiratory therapists at [YOUR MEDICAL CENTER/HOSPITAL OR RESPIRATORY PROGRAM/COLLEGE] are offering a series of free lung health screenings over the next several months/weeks. [YOU CAN FILL IN DETAILS HERE -- MAYBE OFFER ONE OR TWO FREE SCREENING EACH MONTH FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS -- WHATEVER YOU ARE ABLE TO DO -- CALL IF YOU NEED HELP WITH PLANNING OR READ ABOUT IT ON THE "EFFECTIVE PR IS LOCAL PR" PAGE ON AARC.ORG] The lung function test they will use, spirometry, can identify early onset of COPD (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Spirometry is a simple screening that measures your lungs' airflow and volume, which are good indicators of lung health. Abnormal measurements may indicate that airflow obstruction has begun, and early detection is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in spite of it.

The study, Confronting COPD in America, is the most comprehensive U. S. survey ever done on the disease and reveals that millions of Americans are suffering from shortness of breath so severe it interferes with even the most basic daily activities. Of the nearly 600 people with COPD interviewed:

  • Nearly half get short of breath while washing and dressing (44 percent) and/or doing light housework (46 percent).
  • One in three (32 percent) get short of breath while talking, and 28 percent have difficulty breathing even when sitting or lying still.
  • Almost one in four (23 percent) say their condition has made them an invalid; eight percent are too breathless to leave home.

The survey confirms that COPD can be a debilitating disease that robs people of their breath and their independence. "Early detection is vital to staving off the ravages of this disease and to ensuring longer and healthier lives for people diagnosed with it," said Giordano. "Anyone who might be at risk should take the time to learn more about COPD and by all means get a spirometry test."

  1. An estimated 16 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD; an additional 16 million may be undiagnosed (Petty TL, A new national strategy for COPD. Journal of Respiratory Diseases, 1997; 18(4): 365-369). Diabetes affects an estimated 15.7 million Americans: 10.3 million diagnosed, 5.4 million undiagnosed (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Diabetes At-A-Glance 2000).
  2. National Center for Health Statistics, Report of Final Mortality Statistics, 1998.
  3. American Lung Association Fact Sheet: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Sept. 2000. New, unpublished data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers an estimate of $30.4 billion.