Many people have heard of COPD but aren’t sure what it means. Each November, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) hosts World COPD Day, a day to raise awareness about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The annual event, held November 16, seeks to educate the public and healthcare professionals seeking to learn about new treatments and how to counsel patients suffering from COPD. Several events are held around the world in conjunction with World COPD Day that bring both sufferers and non-sufferers together in education.

World Conference of COPD Patient Organizations

Held last year in Shanghai, China, the World Conference of COPD Patient Organizations brings different COPD organizations together in one place. Professors and researchers hold sessions on such issues as doctor-patient communication and how to quit smoking. Since smoking is the single primary cause of COPD, cessation is usually a hot topic at World COPD Day events. The conference also includes a press conference to disseminate information about COPD to the media.

By bringing researchers together from around the world, the World Conference of COPD Patient Organizations hopes to discover new ideas and pioneer new treatments for COPD. The conference is open to COPD patients, families of COPD patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, organizational leaders, and public health workers.

Celebrated Around the World

The first World COPD Day was held in 2002 and each year it has grown stronger. Activities and events for World COPD take place all over the globe, ranging from formal seminars to information booths being set up in hospital lobbies, and each year theyhave a different theme. Spirometry, a breathing test used to determine a patient’s lung capacity, was 2011’s theme and events included free spirometry clinics.

In addition to events, World COPD Day includes a public relations push: a press release, radio announcements, print ads, and posters help to get the word out about the disease. World COPD Day also traditionally includes walks, runs, and swims, which COPD patients, their friends, and families participate in to benefit COPD research.

The following are just some of the activities and events organized around the world to raise awareness of COPD in the last two years.

Australia: In 2010, the NSCCAHS Group from North Ryde, New South Wales organized a walking activity in a local shopping center that aimed to beat their previous record of 118kms. The activity helped to promote COPD awareness to local shoppers.

Bangladesh: A scientific seminar and discussion on COPD was given at the National Institute of Disease of the Chest and Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2011. A poster campaign was promoted throughout the country, followed by a march with banners to raise awareness.

Canada: In 2011, Halton Healthcare Services organized an information booth in the hospital lobby. Educational materials on the subjects of smoking cessation, spirometry, and COPD best practices were available and a demonstration was given to promote the use of Champix for smoking cessation.

Chile: An information booth provided vital COPD information in the lobby of the Hospital Clinic Universidad in 2010. A talk was also given for patients, their caregivers, and the community.

Germany: In 2011, The German Airway League (Deutsche Atemwegsliga) organized an intensive social media campaign using Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube to raise COPD awareness.

India: Cipla Ltd. in Sonepat organized COPD camps at factories for workers and for the traffic police in 2011. A testing campaign that measures peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) was organized at a local jogging park and events were publicized on a TV Talk Show.

Macedonia: The Macedonian Respiratory Society organized a nationwide billboard and poster campaign in 2011 and World COPD Day was promoted on two of the country’s leading TV stations.

Mexico: In 2011, two COPD courses were transmitted via satellite from Mexico City to more than 2,900 doctors in 12 cities throughout the country. Radio, TV, and newspapers promoted World COPD Day throughout October and November.

New Zealand: A free breakfast meeting for nurses was organized in 2011 to discuss COPD management and pulmonary rehabilitation and an information booth was organized at a local shopping mall.

Philippines: The Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) organized a series of events to raise COPD awareness throughout October and November 2011. This included the Arts For Lungs Visual Arts Exhibit by various Filipino artists entitled “Celebrating Hope for COPD Patients,” and the Prevention and the Arts for Lungs concert, featuring Filipino music and dance artists.

Singapore: The Changi General Hospital organized a one-day, free spirometry screening event for the general public at a local shopping mall in 2011.

United Kingdom: In 2011, the Breath of Life Foundation invited a local newspaper to watch their exercise program and provide a write-up to promote their work.

USA: The Seattle Fight For Air Run/Walk is organized to take place on May 6, 2012. This 5K fundraising event supports COPD research, healthy air advocacy, and life-saving education.

What World COPD Day Hopes to Achieve

The main goal of World COPD Day is awareness. Event organizers hope to increase awareness about the disease in order to help sufferers receive the treatment they need. Additionally, by educating healthcare providers about the latest developments in COPD treatments, they’ll better be able to diagnose patients and find the right treatment.

The long-term goal, organizers say, is to cut down on the number of COPD-related deaths in the United States. According to current estimates, one in 20 deaths in the U.S. is related to COPD, a condition that doesn’t have to be a death sentence. By catching the disease early, patients can get the treatment they need to lessen symptoms and stay healthier longer.

Spreading the word about the dangers of cigarette smoking is also a mission of COPD organizations. As cigarette smoking is the number one contributor to COPD, quitting is the most important prevention tool. COPD patients need these techniques as well, as many are required to give up smoking within days of diagnosis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated that if major changes aren’t made, it will be the third leading cause of death worldwide by the year 2030. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are often symptoms of COPD, which causes a patient to have difficulty breathing and possibly eventual heart problems.

While COPD has no cure at this time, numerous treatments are available to help prolong life and relieve symptoms. Bronchodilators and corticosteroids are common treatments for COPD, and patients are often put on pulmonary therapy and breathing exercises to help strengthen the lungs and clear away mucus.

In 2011, World COPD Day boasted 95 events in 29 countries, with the majority of the events held in India. COPD has become a major health concern in recent years, as it affects approximately four to 10 percent of Indian men. India has seen a marked increase in tobacco-related mortality in recent years, along with China and other Asian countries.

In America, nine events were held on World COPD Day. Many institutions acknowledged November as COPD Awareness Month, opening up opportunities for COPD organizations to get the word out. The American Lung Association and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute initiated a campaign called “Learn More Breathe Better®.” They released a survey that revealed that 68 percent of adults admitted to having heard of the disease, which was an increase from 2008 polls, possibly because of COPD awareness efforts and commercials for COPD medications.World COPD Day and COPD Awareness Month are making great strides in turning COPD into a household term.