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Living with COPD in Rural Communities: Connecting to Information and Support

(November 15, 2018)

If you or a loved one are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in a rural community, you are not alone—although it can sometimes feel that way. More than 11 million people in the U.S. are living with COPD, and while people living in rural areas are twice as likely as those living in large metropolitan areas to have COPD, they may also have less access to the treatment and resources they need to manage symptoms.

November is COPD Awareness Month and this year, the American Lung Association is honoring Rural Health Day by sharing COPD information and encouraging COPD patients, their families and healthcare providers living and working in rural communities to access and share COPD information and support.

COPD is a serious, chronic lung disease that makes breathing difficult. Early diagnosis, proper treatment and social support can help people with COPD continue to live an active life. Unfortunately, we know that for people living in rural communities, access to COPD-related treatment and services is often limited. Some of the challenges may include:

  • Travel. Distance to doctors and hospitals can be great, and in bad weather, road conditions can be poor, making it difficult to access care.
  • Healthcare provider shortage. Rural primary care providers can be overburdened by the number of patients and variety of diseases they see each day. Respiratory care specialists, including pulmonologists and pulmonary rehabilitation centers, are also few and far between in rural areas.
  • Home health opportunities. The availability of home healthcare services and supplemental oxygen delivery are also limited where population density is low, and distances are long.
  • Support. Finding a local community of other COPD patients for social and emotional support can be hard.

In March 2018, the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) convened a group of experts, including the American Lung Association, to discuss these challenges and learn from each other about taking positive approaches to make sure rural communities are included in the COPD National Action Plan. This plan was created to empower people with COPD, improve diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of the disease, all while working to improve the quality of care delivered across the country.

The Lung Association has a wealth of resources available to help, no matter where you live, at just a click or a phone call away. Staying connected to sources of trustworthy information and support are an important part of living well with COPD.

  • Are you wondering about your treatment options? Print out a copy of our Top Five Questions to Ask Your Doctor About COPD and the COPD Management Plan to talk through with your doctor on your next visit.
  • Do you have questions about COPD, quitting smoking, or accessing resources? Call or chat with a nurse or respiratory therapist at our toll-free Lung HelpLine – 1-800-LUNGUSA.
  • Have you been prescribed supplemental oxygen, or want to learn more about it? Check out the educational videos and other resources on our website at Lung.org/oxygen.
  • Do you want to be part of a dynamic community of other people who share your experience of living with COPD? Join the Lung Association’s Living with COPD Community and join the conversation.
  • Would you prefer face-to-face support? Visit Lung.org/better-breathers to see if there is a local Better Breathers Club support group in your community. If there isn’t, ask your provider if they can start one.
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