November is COPD Awareness Month

(November 9, 2009)

Did you know that COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.? Or that it affects more than 12 million Americans?  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – is a term used to describe the obstruction of airflow.   As part of our commitment to lung health, the American Lung Association has created new tools for COPD patients and partnering with others to help people with COPD live healthier, more active lives.


New COPD Toolkit

COPD cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Early detection and diagnosis is the key to successful management of this chronic disease.  The American Lung Association, in partnership with AstraZeneca, has developed a toolkit to help people accurately report their symptoms of COPD to their health care provider and develop a COPD action plan with their physician's guidance. You can download the toolkit here.

The toolkit includes a COPD Report Card and a COPD Action Plan designed to help improve communication between patients and their physicians, so they can better understand their disease, recognize the signs and symptoms of their COPD worsening, and know the appropriate steps to take. 

"When found early, there is much that can be done to treat and help manage the disease," says Norman H. Edelman, MD, American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer.  "Newer treatments can improve and prevent COPD symptoms while also enhancing the patient's quality of life. We hope by using these tools and reporting to their physicians, patients can avoid flare-ups, possible hospitalizations and further serious damage to their lungs."    

Funding for a COPD Program at the CDC
The American Lung Association has launched an advocacy campaign to fund a COPD program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This program would enable the U.S. develop a plan to tackle COPD head-on.  Without such a plan, COPD is expected to become the 3rd leading cause of death in just over 10 years. 

Click here to ask your Senators and Representative to fund this much-needed program.

Learn More, Breathe Better Raises COPD Awareness
The American Lung Association is also partnering with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and others on COPD Learn More Breathe Better*.  Learn More Breathe Better was developed to educate the public about the early symptoms and signs of COPD.  Visit to learn more about COPD, its risk factors the benefits of early detection and treatments that can slow the disease and improve quality of life.

As part of National COPD Awareness Month, the COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign released survey findings about awareness of COPD.  Since the Campaign began in 2004 there have been some positive gains in awareness and understanding of COPD among Americans.  According to the survey, 68 percent of adults have heard of the disease. This is an increase from 64 percent in 2008 and 49 percent in 2004.

 Additional findings from the survey also showed:

  • An increase in recognition of the symptoms of COPD.  Shortness of breath was identified as a symptom of COPD by 81 percent of adults, compared to only 74 percent who could properly make the connection last year.  This finding is a testament to the efforts of the Campaign, and its partners including the American Lung Association. 
  • While awareness of COPD is on the rise, understanding is still fairly low.  Unfortunately, current smokers are much less likely than former smokers to talk to their doctors about experiencing COPD symptoms. 
  • Less than half of all adults, 44 percent, understand that the disease can be treated.  However, the survey did show that physicians maintain an optimistic view about COPD treatability.

The Campaign continues to expand its reach through initiatives like fielding this survey, formalizing and supporting its partnership network called the Breathe Better Network, and conducting its Country Conquers COPD signature event series.  To learn more about the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign, visit

Keep up with the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign on Facebook and Twitter (@BreatheBetter).

Fighting for Treatments
The American Lung Association is a leader in funding research to find better treatments and advance our medical knowledge to improve the lives of those with COPD.  We have funded or jointly funded research on how to prevent lung cancer in people with COPD, on stopping wall thickening to improve COPD survival, and to improve our understanding of how cigarette smoking leads to COPD. 

You can join our fight against COPD by making a donation to support our mission, to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. 

Related links
About COPD
COPD Action Alert

*COPD Learn More Breathe Better® is a trademark of DHHS.