World COPD Day: Lung Association Launches Campaign to Improve Care for 12.5 million Americans Living with COPD

American Lung Association amps up education and awareness about chronic lung disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States. More than 12.5 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease without even knowing it. Today, on World COPD Day, the American Lung Association aims to increase awareness about COPD, including the critical need to improve screening, early diagnosis and the quality of life for people living with the disease.

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that gets worse over time. With COPD, less air flows in and out of the lungs which makes it harder for a person to breathe. As the disease gets worse, increased shortness of breath makes it harder to remain active.

“Currently, there is no cure for COPD, but the good news is that it is preventable and treatable,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO for the American Lung Association. “Early detection is key to successfully treating COPD, however many people don't recognize the symptoms until later stages of the disease. This is why nationwide awareness is needed to educate public health and healthcare professionals about the disease, including prevention, screening and guidelines for treatment and management of COPD.”

The American Lung Association’s “Addressing COPD” project, funded with support by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will utilize a coordinated, comprehensive public health approach to improve prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and management of COPD. To do this, the Lung Association will engage a network of strategic community partners to increase knowledge and adoption of evidence-based strategies that improve COPD morbidity and mortality across the United States.

As a part of this project, the American Lung Association’s COPD Trends Brief was updated with the latest CDC data. The COPD Trends Brief will inform healthcare systems, policy makers, community leaders and the public about who is most affected by COPD and how widespread the impact of COPD is on Americans.

More About COPD

COPD is caused by long-term exposure to irritants that damage the airways in your lungs like cigarette smoking; breathing secondhand smoke; exposure to air pollution; working with chemicals, dust and fumes; or sometimes a genetic condition called Alpha-1 deficiency or a history of childhood respiratory infection. About 75% of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Symptoms of COPD include chronic cough, shortness of breath while doing everyday activities, trouble taking a deep breath, producing a lot of mucus (sputum or phlegm) and wheezing.

Women are often misdiagnosed because COPD is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease” or an “old person’s disease.” However, more women are diagnosed with and die from COPD. In addition, women tend to develop the disease between ages of 45 to 64 which is younger than when men are typically diagnosed. 

There are several treatment options for COPD. Treatments may include medication, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, pulmonary rehabilitation, supplemental oxygen, endobronchial valve (EBV) treatment, surgery, palliative care and clinical trials.

Learn more at

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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