New Program Aims to Diagnose COPD Earlier in Rural Alabama

During COPD Awareness Month, the American Lung Association launches program to educate rural healthcare professionals about the disease

Here in Alabama, 377,000 people have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), however, many more may have the disease without knowing it. Today, the American Lung Association in Alabama announced the new Reaching Rural Providers initiative, which aims to increase early diagnosis of COPD in rural communities by educating healthcare professionals about the disease. 

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. It is the third leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S. 

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama is one of seven states with the highest estimates for COPD diagnosis, hospitalizations and death, and our rural communities are harder hit. In rural areas, COPD rates are twice as high as the overall population,” said Ashley Lyerly, director of advocacy for the Lung Association. “The good news is that COPD is treatable when diagnosed early. Many people don't recognize the symptoms of COPD until later stages of the disease, so it is critical for our rural healthcare providers to be educated on the latest symptoms, as well as the newest treatments and medications for the disease.”

The Lung Association’s new Reaching Rural Providers initiative works to increase early diagnosis of COPD in rural communities across the nation. Resources are available nationwide, but additional focus will be on rural communities in six states with the highest estimates for COPD diagnosis, hospitalizations and death, which include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. 

By completing an online form, rural healthcare providers can access printed patient-focused resources from both the American Lung Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI): Learn More Breathe Better Program. Resources available include a 90-minute, on-demand COPD Overview Course; a COPD Action Plan; NHLBI’s learn More Breathe Better resource, Are you at Risk?; links to online trainings; and more.

Providers can access and download the free resources at

The American Lung Association is a proud recipient of the NHLBI’s Learn More Breathe Better® 2021-2022 Community Subcontract Program. The subcontract program helps support leading lung health organizations—including those in the Breathe Better Network—to educate, engage, and empower the millions of Americans living with COPD, as well as their families, caregivers, and health care providers through the development of sustainable activities that further the goals and objectives of the COPD National Action Plan, the nation’s first-ever blueprint for a multifaceted, unified fight against the disease.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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