Wednesday (Nov. 19) marks the seventh-annual World COPD Day—an event held each November to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worldwide.
COPD is a devastating lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. According to the World Health Organization, COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death worldwide, causing more than three million deaths every year.
Moreover, recent studies indicate 25-50 percent of people with clinically-significant COPD don’t know they have the disease.
On World COPD Day, in countries all over the world, dozens of activities for health-care professionals, COPD patients, the general public, and the media will take place around the theme “Breathless Not Helpless!”
This positive theme emphasizes that effective treatments are available for COPD. It also raises awareness that, for people who have not been diagnosed with COPD, breathlessness is a signal they should see their doctor.
Therefore, in attempt to increase awareness and provide a screening opportunity, the Fort Frances Family Health Team is offering spirometry testing, COPD and inhaler education, and smoking cessation using spirometry testing.
Mark Mosley, a respiratory therapist from Thunder Bay, will be at the clinic here to offer these services along with local chronic disease co-ordinator/RN Patti-Jo LeDrew.
“Breathlessness is not just an inevitable part of getting older,” said Roberto Rodriguez-Roisin, MD, chair of the executive committee of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), which is the organizer of World COPD Day.
But he says the early stages of COPD often go unrecognized.
“Unfortunately, many COPD patients do not receive a diagnosis until their disease is relatively advanced,” he remarked.
Early symptoms of COPD include coughing, bringing up sputum, and getting out of breath during exercise or exertion.
“In patients at risk, a test called spirometry to measure a patient’s lung function can diagnose COPD. Spirometry is simple, quick, and painless to do,” noted Klaus Rabe, MD, PhD, and GOLD executive committee co-chair.
“Greater use of spirometry would help us diagnose COPD earlier and reduce the worldwide burden of COPD,” echoed Christine Jenkins, MD, chair of the GOLD Dissemination Committee.
This year, the committee produced a series of educational resources to help health-care professionals perform and interpret spirometry in clinical practice.
“Many people are aware that it is important to have one’s cholesterol levels monitored. If you have risk factors for COPD, getting a lung function test is just important,” Jenkins stressed.
“Spirometry testing, along with COPD education, are the most integral tools in providing not only diagnosis, but patient awareness of their own disease process,” said LeDrew.
“Providing the time for education on lifestyle, proper use of medications, and the importance of an individual action plan are necessary to prevent and control exacerbations that lead to hospital admissions,” she added.
The Chronic Disease Management Program at the Fort Frances Community Clinic has a goal to provide these ongoing services to referred patients.
Without treatment, COPD generally is a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse, patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking the dog, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.
The earlier COPD is detected, the more effective treatment can be. Medicines for COPD alleviate symptoms of breathlessness so patients can participate more fully in daily life.
Patients may be able to slow or even stop the progress of COPD by reducing their exposure to risk factors for the disease.
Worldwide, the most commonly encountered risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. Other important risk factors include dusts and chemicals encountered on the job and smoke from biomass fuels (such as coal, wood, and animal dung) burned for cooking and heating in poorly-ventilated dwellings, especially in developing countries.
“By educating our patients on the risk factors and triggers associated with COPD, we will, in fact, empower these individuals to advocate for their personal health needs, and allow them the opportunity to make informed decisions about their personal lifestyle and medical needs,” LeDrew remarked.
The Fort Frances Family Health Team is very excited to offer this COPD clinic on Wednesday (Nov. 19).
Those interested in attending a spirometry testing, screening, and education appointment with Mosley and LeDrew are asked to contact the Fort Frances Community Clinic at 274-3287 prior to Wednesday.