State-based COPD Data will Help Address Disease Disparities

Washington, D.C. (November 26, 2012)

Today marks the first time that prevalence data for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema) is available at the state level for the whole nation. This vital information comes from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which was publicly released on November 21, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite being the third leading cause of death in the United States, the most local level COPD prevalence data available to date encompassed four national regions – a level of detail at which important differences within each region were obscured.

"The American Lung Association has long recognized the need for such surveillance and advocated for the addition of a COPD question onto the BRFSS as an ideal solution to this deficit," said American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norman H. Edelman. "Identifying differences in disease burden between groups and geographies is an essential first step in successfully addressing COPD disparities through targeted responses."

After pilot testing in individual states, a question asking if the respondent has ever been diagnosed with COPD, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema was included in every state in 2011. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., also included an optional module of five follow-up questions that were presented to individuals who answered yes to ever having been diagnosed with COPD. These additional questions asked about the number of COPD-related visits to doctors and emergency departments, the number of COPD-related prescriptions currently being taken, current shortness of breath, and history of taking a type of breathing test often used in diagnosing and assessing COPD.

According to the new CDC data, 6.3 percent of Americans aged 18 years or older had ever received a diagnosis of COPD, ranging from less than 4 percent in Washington and Minnesota to more than 9 percent in Alabama and Kentucky.

The BRFSS has been conducted every year since 1984 and currently collects data year round from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Including more than 350,000 respondents, it is the largest telephone health survey in the world.

COPD is a lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. As it gets worse, it is harder to remain active and even regular breathing can become tiring. While COPD currently cannot be cured, it can be prevented and proper treatment can slow its progression and improve the quality of life of those suffering from it. In 2010, the direct and indirect costs of COPD totaled close to $50 billion. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of deaths from the disease.


About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.  For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: