At the beginning of 2020, we never could have predicted how much our world would change in the course of one year. The COVID-19 pandemic created a number of challenges that we, as an organization, rose to address. Our first challenge was to provide factual, science-based information on the coronavirus to the millions of people who visit our website. Additionally, thanks to the generous support of our donors, we found new ways to reinvent our in-person initiatives so that they could still thrive in the post-COVID world. Here is a look back at some of the innovative ideas we are most proud of. 

Combatting COVID-19

As the nation’s trusted champion of lung health, the Lung Association took quick action to address the virus. In early April, we announced a $25 million investment to defeat COVID-19 and prevent future respiratory virus outbreaks through the COVID-19 Action Initiative. We have since seen significant strides in research funding, education, advocacy and coalition efforts to address the challenges around the virus, including funding 12 COVID-19 research grants totaling $2.4 million. 

Beginning in June, the Lung Association established the virtual COVID-19 Town Hall Series. This monthly webinar event brings together top health experts to raise awareness about the effects of COVID-19 and discuss the health impact of the pandemic on all Americans. In addition, the Lung Association launched its first ever podcast, donned “Lungcast,” which has featured Dr. Anthony Fauci among other COVID-19 experts.

While the COVID-19 virus does not discriminate against whom it infects, the pandemic has exposed a deep gap in resources and healthcare access within Black and Latino communities. Our Buy 2, Give 2 initiative seeks to aid these communities by offering to donate 2 masks to a underserved community for every 2 masks that are purchased. 

The Lung Association has convened a COVID-19 Advisory Panel, hosted a vaccine roundtable with top-tier medical experts and community leaders and distributed more than 30,000 masks to those in need through local partnerships.

In September, the American Lung Association hosted a one-of-a-kind livestream event.  

Hosted by Queen Latifah, our #Act4Impact telethon sought to raise awareness about disparities in healthcare, specifically in the time of COVID-19. With the help of some celebrity friends, we were able to raise $6.9MM for the COVID-19 Action Initiative. 

Going Virtual

With COVID-19 making live events unsafe, we were tasked with reimagining safe ways to engage our communities. Our first signature event to face the challenge of maintaining social distancing measures was our Fight For Air Climb. As COVID-19 spread across the country, many considered cancelations until our imaginative volunteers and staff rallied to keep the momentum going by hosting Virtual Climbs in March and April. We also recognized that in this time of uncertainty, many people had new and creative ways to raise funds, so we sought to encourage this creativity by establishing a DIY fundraiser program.

The enthusiasm for virtual connection spread to our LUNG FORCE Expos, which were held virtually for the first time ever. Designed to educate patients and health professionals about the latest trends, resources and research surrounding lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. Even though the event was moved online we had record attendance and are planning more events in 2021. 

In March, we celebrated five years of LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day through an innovative virtual event that united LUNG FORCE Heroes from across the nation to remotely meet with members of Congress and ask them to support $44.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and to ensure that current healthcare protections, including those for patients with pre-existing conditions, will continue. “We were allowed to do a remote conversation with three representatives,” LUNG FORCE hero Milli W said. “Their offices all listened! We asked them to support $44.7B in funding for the National Institutes of Health, I also asked that they continue their support for our current healthcare protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions.”

This further inspired us to move many other events online, including our Virtual Better Breathers Network which have been hosted by our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Albert Rizzo online since mid-March, and continue to share up-to-the-minute information about lung disease and COVID-19.

Signature Reports and Initiatives

For 18 years, our annual “State of Tobacco Control” report has tracked and graded efforts to reduce tobacco use by state and federal governments. Among other things, this year we were disheartened to see that youth vaping remains an epidemic, with 2019 showing an alarming rise to 27.5% of high schoolers reporting e-cigarette use and middle school use rising to 10.5%.  In response to these findings, the American Lung Association’s comprehensive plan to end youth vaping encompasses education, advocacy and research, and has four components. The first was a public awareness campaign with the Ad Council called “Get Your Head Out of the Cloud.” The goal was to equip parents with the facts about e-cigarettes and support conversations before kids start to vape. In addition, the Vape-Free Schools Initiative helps school administrators and educators address the surge of youth vaping through guidance in implementing a comprehensive tobacco use policy, an alternative to suspension program for students.

In July, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act by launched the Stand Up For Clean Air initiative, encouraging everyone to sign the pledge at Lung.org/air. “Stand Up For Clean Air empowers everyone to make small changes in their lives that will add up to a big collective difference.” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy, Ashley Lyerly. “Even if you’ve never considered your part in addressing climate change and air pollution, now is everyone’s chance to make a difference. It’s not too late, and every action counts.”

The American Lung Association's 21st annual “State of the Air” report, released in April, supported these claims. The annual air quality “report card” once again found that nearly half of all Americans were exposed to unhealthy air in 2016-2018. Pollution places the health of residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution such as older adults, children and those with a lung disease. 

The transportation sector is a leading contributor to both climate change and air pollution. With nearly half of Americans living with unhealthy air, and climate change making it harder to protect public health today. This is why we released the first "The Road to Clean Air" report. The report highlights the potential for major public health and climate change benefits through a robust nationwide transition to electric vehicles.

We released our 3rd annual “State of Lung Cancer” report in November. It examines the toll of lung cancer throughout the nation and outlines steps every state can take to better protect its residents from lung cancer. For the first time, this year’s report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels. “The report continued to grow on its solid foundation of describing lung cancer disparities by adding data for racial and ethnic groups this year which revealed drastic differences between people of color and white Americans in lung cancer outcomes and treatment,” our National Director of Epidemiology and Statistics, Zach Jump, said.

Thank You!

None of this progress would be possible without the support of our generous donors. Thank you so much for helping us make it through this trying year, it is your continued commitment that gives us hope that we one day will achieve a world free of lung disease.

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