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Q+A with Danica Patrick

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June 15, 2011

Danica Patrick

Racecar driver and DRIVE4COPD spokesperson Danica Patrick recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about what’s happening with the campaign this year and how she believes our new Adopt-a-Company initiative will help to bolster the overall effort—

AARC: It’s been about a year since we last spoke to you—how is everything going with DRIVE4COPD?

Danica Patrick: Everything is rolling along really well. We reached our one millionth screener last year, which was the goal that we had set for ourselves. And we’re up to a million and a half already this year. So things are going very well.

AARC: Last year our members screened more than 50,000 people through all sorts of events. This year we’ve decided to sponsor an Adopt-a-Company campaign to get them back in the act. Basically, we’re asking our members to go out and connect with a local company and engage them in conversations about COPD and offer them the chance to do the screener with their employees. And we’re hoping they’ll all have a special event related to COPD in the fall. Based on your experience with DRIVE4COPD, what advice would you give RTs about how to best engage the community with COPD information and screenings?

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick: Well, I think the most important thing for people to know is that it’s a progressive disease, and that when you do nothing about it you continue to get worse. So I think that’s an incredibly good program to get people to go out into local communities and raise awareness of this disease that kills more people than breast cancer and diabetes combined. Of the 24 million people that have it, half of them don’t even know it. So awareness is the key right now.

AARC: Right, and a lot of them are still working, which is why we wanted to target employers.

Danica Patrick: Absolutely. This disease usually kills people before they’re 70 years old. It took my grandma before 70. A lot of people work that long, so it’s important for people who might still be busy to realize that their health is of the utmost importance, and no matter how hard they work, if they’re not healthy enough to do anything once they’re done working, it’s kind of all for naught. They don’t have a retirement to enjoy.

AARC: Right, and a lot of people, like you say, have to keep working longer than they thought they would these days, so it’s even more important to keep healthy.

Danica Patrick: Exactly. 

AARC: What’s your role going to be in DRIVE for the rest of this year, and why did you choose these activities to focus on?

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick: The screener truck is going to a lot more NASCAR races and they’re screening people at the races, which is great. For myself, I just like to raise awareness wherever I go and with whoever I talk to, whether it’s through conversation or interviews or tweeting—you know, just getting people to take the screener and take action with their health, or their family’s health or their friend’s health, which could be something that’s in need more than their own. We have a lot of stuff like that going on throughout the year—including doing interviews like this to promote awareness so that people just start to take notice and start to do something about it. 

AARC: What kind of response have you gotten from people when you talk about DRIVE4COPD?

Danica Patrick: So many people are appreciative of the work that I’ve done, and that everyone else has done, to raise awareness for their disease. A lot of people are just happy because their mother has it, or their grandma has it, or their brother has it and, you know, maybe it’s too late for them, but maybe it’s not. Of course, it is going to take some time before we notice that more people overall are being treated for COPD and have less horrible side effects. You have to stay at it until this happens. 

AARC: COPD has certainly gotten a lot of attention through DRIVE. I know your grandmother suffered from the disease for many years before she passed away. What do you think she’d think about DRIVE4COPD and, most especially, all the time and attention you’ve given to it?

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick: Well, I’m sure she’d be proud. I’m sure she would be glad that something that was unfortunate with her could perhaps be a positive for the world and for those who take action with their health. I’m sure part of her would wish that she knew about this disease and that there was a campaign like this out there decades ago when she was getting ill. But most of all, I think she’d be proud.

AARC: Well, I’m sure she would be. Is there anything else you’d like to add, or any additional advice you’d like to give our members as they work with employees at the companies they adopt this year?

Danica Patrick: I think that one other thing they can tell them is that if they’re not going to do it for themselves, they need to do it for their families. They need to take action with their health and talk to their doctor, because I know with my grandma, she was sick and my grandpa ended up having to take care of her the whole time, because you get to the point where you can’t walk anymore, you can’t breathe. My grandma was on oxygen 24 hours a day. So, if you feel like maybe you’re not enough, maybe it’s enough to think about the rest of your family and the people who will end up taking care of you and see you suffer. So do it for not only yourself but the rest of your family. Try to get everyone to take the five question screener on the website, at DRIVE4COPD.com.

Find out more about the DRIVE4COPD campaign and how you can get involved.