New COPD National Action Plan To Support the 11 Million Americans Living with COPD, Nation's Third Leading Cause of Death

A new nationwide comprehensive plan offers support for the 11 million Americans living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. Today the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched the first-ever COPD National Action Plan, providing a unified framework for reducing the burden of COPD.

"When you can't breathe, nothing else matters," said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. "COPD places a huge burden on those living with the disease, and many struggle to breathe even during normal daily activities. As a result, COPD has become a leading cause of both death and disability in the U.S. More must be done to reduce the burden of those living with the disease, and the American Lung Association strongly supports the strategies put forth through the new COPD National Action Plan."

The COPD National Action Plan is the result of more than a year-long collaboration among representatives from across the entire COPD community, working together to provide patient-centered recommendations. The American Lung Association served as a lead partner on the Action Plan, which addresses the needs of patients and the greater public through education on risk factors, improving the quality of health care delivery, and increasing COPD research activities, among other objectives.

"The reality is that to better support those living with COPD, we need a multipronged approach, and organizations nationwide cannot continue to work in silos," Wimmer said. "It will take a variety of stakeholders – healthcare providers, patient advocacy groups and federal agency partners – collaborating with urgency and a shared vision to address COPD, and the COPD National Action Plan outlines this vision. We're proud to stand alongside NHLBI and other stakeholders nationwide as we work together towards reducing the burden of COPD on patients and caregivers."

The Action Plan serves as a tool to drive change and support activities that help reduce the burden of COPD, and according to Wimmer, the American Lung Association alongside other federal and nonfederal partners will help in the implementation of the elements of the plan.

A key goal of the plan calls for greater public awareness and understanding of COPD. The Lung Association has long served as the nation's premier resource for lung health, and will continue its work to raise awareness about the disease and drive diagnosis for those living with the disease undiagnosed, so that they can access treatment options. In addition, for those living with COPD, the Lung Association offers resources on, the toll-free Lung HelpLine and through Better Breathers Clubs - support groups for individuals with COPD and their caregivers, sharing ways to better cope with the disease and improve quality of life.

"While 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, it's estimated that millions more are living with undiagnosed COPD," said American Lung Association Volunteer Spokesperson MeiLan K. Han, MD, who helped develop the COPD National Action Plan. "The good news is that COPD is a manageable disease. This makes education and public awareness critical, because those living with undiagnosed COPD could get treatment to greatly improve their quality of life, including support through Better Breathers Clubs, but they need to ask their doctor and communicate with their healthcare team."

The American Lung Association recommends that those experiencing COPD symptoms—chronic cough, shortness of breath, frequent respiratory infections, significant mucus production (also called phlegm or sputum) and/or wheezing—speak with his or her doctor about obtaining a breathing test called "spirometry" which can help diagnose COPD.

COPD can be caused by smoking, air pollution, secondhand smoke and dust, fumes and chemicals and Alpha-1 Deficiency. Addressing these risk factors, the Action Plan calls for increased access to tobacco cessation services and for implementing prevention strategies to limit exposure to tobacco, among other objectives to help improve COPD prevention and management.

"The American Lung Association commends NHLBI for addressing the need to support initiatives and activities that promote a tobacco-free society," Wimmer said. "To fully support those living with COPD, we need to strengthen the public health infrastructure for addressing COPD, including supporting prevention efforts and addressing risk factors for COPD."

The plan also outlines the importance of not only increased and sustained COPD research, but also the critical need to collect, analyze and share data to create a better understanding of disease patterns. Working towards these shared goals, the American Lung Association's Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) – the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD – conducts large clinical trials that directly impact patient care for those living with COPD.

"Investments in patient-centered research is critical," said Han, who is also the Principal Investigator at the University of Michigan for the ACRC Network. "Through my COPD research I have seen firsthand how research investments help us build momentum towards treatments that can truly transform lives, especially as we move towards developing personalized treatment options for those living with COPD."

According to Wimmer, the American Lung Association has long been advocating for a robust federal public health response to COPD.

"Today we're celebrating the presentation of a comprehensive and strategic Action Plan put forth, that when put in motion by both federal and nonfederal stakeholders, will save lives," Wimmer said.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about COPD or how the Lung Association will be supporting the COPD National Action Plan, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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