As the year comes to an end and we reflect on 2019, it’s clear that this was a record year for the American Lung Association and all who support our mission. More than 875,000 donations helped promote research, education and continual support for all Americans affected by lung disease. In addition, nearly 13,000 advocacy actions fueled our year-round work to support and create laws and policies that improve lung health for everyone. Just as important, this year, 225 people shared their stories on our site, joining the 1,500 LUNG FORCE Heroes who inspire us every day to continue in our fight to rid the world of lung cancer and lung disease.
We asked leaders in the Lung Association community to share their highlights in the world of lung health in 2019. Here’s what they said:
A Movement Ignited
“In the wake of multiple events this year which have threatened our lung health, a movement has been ignited. Many, who in the past, would not have otherwise been energized to act, have received a wakeup call and are now motivated because they realize the profound threats to our lung health and well-being. In a year of vaping injuries and deaths, the threat of compromise of auto emissions standards and devastating wildfires, I am very proud that the American Lung Association is at the forefront of all of these issues in working on policies and educating the general public on lung health and how to be more involved.” — Dr. Afif El-Hasan, American Lung Association National Volunteer Medical Spokesperson
End the Epidemic
“I think it has got to be the recognition of the major and devastating epidemic related to vaping. Those of us in the field were starting to get anxious as we’d seen some preliminary data suggesting that young people were using e-cigarettes, but we didn’t have any idea of the scope of the problem until this last year. The tragic deaths related to vaping have now brought this to the forefront, and I think the work of the American Lung Association to publicize and increase awareness of this epidemic has been critically important.” —Anne E. Dixon, M.D., Scientific Advisory Committee Vice Chair and American Lung Association National Board Member
“My 2019 Lung Health highlight would be the EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) epidemic which acutely raised awareness of the dangers of vaping. Combined with the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by high school students, this points for the need for FDA to regulate these products as mandated and for the need to remove all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes from the market. The time to act is now, before we lose another generation to nicotine addiction.” — Dr. David Hill, American Lung Association National Volunteer Medical Spokesperson
More than 5,700 kids start vaping every day. In addition to increasing awareness of this crisis, we know that to help end the youth vaping epidemic we need to talk to kids about e-cigarettes and offer education and support. That’s why resources are critical for parents, teens, schools and healthcare providers. For example, The Vape Talk gives parents a conversation guide to help them talk with their kids about vaping, our new INDEPTH program offers schools support as an alternative to suspension for vaping, and Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) is helping teens quit smoking and vaping.
Flavors are at the heart of what attracts kids to begin vaping and the American Lung Association has played a critical role in the effort to reverse the youth vaping epidemic by removing all flavored products from the market. We have advocated nationally and locally to eliminate flavors, scoring key victories, such as the state of Massachusetts removing all flavored tobacco products. On November 22, our CEO Harold Wimmer had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion at the White House to ask President Trump to carry through with his proposal to remove these flavored products.
Saved By The Scan
“For me, 2019 highlighted early detection of lung cancer through the use of high-risk identifiers and the low-dose CT scan. I feel privileged to be a part of the Lung Association family and the campaign for Saved By The Scan.” —Milli W., LUNG FORCE Hero
Milli, a mother of two and grandmother of five, is just one of our LUNG FORCE Heroes who was Saved By The Scan. She got scanned after seeing Eva-Marie’s story on a TV commercial. We also heard the story of Denise L., a retired public defender, who saw a billboard for Saved By The Scan on her daily commute, then took action that ultimately saved her life. We know that if everyone who is at high risk for lung cancer were screened, close to 48,000 lives could be saved. This year, more than 118,000 people took the Saved By The Scan screening eligibility quiz and we’re thrilled more and more people are sharing their hope-inspiring Saved By The Scan stories of early detection.
Increasing Lung Cancer Survival Rate
“I am impressed by the increase in the survival rates from lung cancer. As we continue to support research in finding cures as well as reaching out to people at risk to get scanned, it is promising that we can continue to increase survival rates.” —Penny Schilz, American Lung Association National Board of Directors Chair and Executive Committee Chair
We saw in the 2019 State of Lung Cancer report that the five-year survival rate—the rate of people who are still alive five years after being diagnosed—is now 21.7 percent, up from 17.2 percent a decade ago. That is a remarkable 26 percent improvement over the past 10 years.
In addition, thanks to early detection and research advancements, lung cancer patients are leading longer and healthier lives. And this means we’re seeing more and more survivors navigating their new normal after a diagnosis as LUNG FORCE Hero Denise Z. talks about in our new blog series: Life After Lung Cancer.
Research for Future Generations
“One of the most exciting announcements in 2019 was the first-ever national longitudinal look at the lung health of millennials. This study will give us the unique opportunity to look at how to improve lung health rather than reacting to lung disease. We will review what ideal respiratory health looks like and be able to better understand the key risk factors and biomarkers that are associated with compromised lung health. The long-term goal of the study is to identify who is at risk for developing chronic lung diseases. This study will shape the way we educate individuals about lung health as well as how we diagnose and treat lung disease for future generations.” —Deborah Brown, American Lung Association Chief Mission Officer
The Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) with Northwestern Medicine has been awarded $24.8 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct the first federally funded U.S. lung health study of millennials. Pulmonologist Ravi Kalhan, M.D., MS, at Northwestern Medicine is the Principal Investigator for the study and shares more insight on its significance.
Climate Change Is a Public Health Emergency
“The growing threat of climate change as a public health emergency and the launch of the American Lung Association’s Health Professionals for Clean Air and Climate Action was definitely a highlight. Climate change affects everyone, particularly those without wealth or resources to adapt. Extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, and wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, and public health has suffered as a result. The American Lung Association is leading the way to build support for swift action now to reduce the worst health impacts of climate change.” —Sumita Khatri, M.D., Vice Chair of Mission Programs and Public Policy Committee Chair, American Lung Association National Board
Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other health professionals are on the front lines taking care of patients experiencing the direct impacts of air pollution and climate change. We also heard from Dr. Marc Futernick, an emergency physician in Los Angeles, who shared the impact of wildfires on his patients, staff and family members. Health Professionals for Clean Air and Climate Action is uniting health professionals like Dr. Futernick with opportunities to take action and advocate for patients, health and climate health.
2019: The Year of Air Pollution & Health
“This year, we launched the first-of-its-kind public engagement initiative—the ‘Year of Air Pollution & Health.’ We took the full year to celebrate progress in reducing pollution in the air we breathe and highlight remaining obstacles to healthy air for all—focusing on a different theme each month.” —Diana Van Vleet, American Lung Association National Director of Outreach & Engagement, Healthy Air Campaign
More than 30 health and medical partners signed up to participate in the Year of Air Pollution & Health, ranging from global organizations like the UN Environment Program, to national organizations like the American Heart Association, to state organizations like the Tennessee Department of Health, to local organizations like the Sonoma County Medical Association. Throughout the year, participants took part in educational events—including a briefing from the head of NASA’s Health and Air Quality team for our health and medical partners, a virtual screening and panel discussion around the film Asthma Alley, and a webinar featuring the lead authors of key recent reports on climate change and health connections.
Healthcare for All
“I am thrilled to see the role that the American Lung Association is playing to help ensure all Americans have access to quality and affordable healthcare, including those with pre-existing health conditions. With more than 35 million Americans suffering from a chronic lung disease, the work of the Lung Association is now more critical than ever.” —Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO
The American Lung Association has worked hard to ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare, including advocating to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other current healthcare coverage protections. The Lung Association and our partners filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the lawsuit that initially found the ACA unconstitutional.
Thank you for helping make this year a truly memorable one!
Share with us your lung health highlight from 2019.