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Time to Act on COPD

The EU COPD Coalition (ECC) is using the presence of a major international conference on lung health in Birmingham in England(COPD8) to call for lung testing to be a basic health right for all across Europe and better training for healthcare professionals.
Respiratory community calls for lung testing to be offered as ‘standard’

As leading figures in respiratory health from across the globe gather in Birmingham for the COPD8 conference ahead of World Spirometry Day, the European COPD Coalition (ECC) is calling on policy makers across Europe to recognise that chronic diseases such as COPD, present as great a threat as the global financial crisis , and is urging collective action.

To support this, several West Midlands NHS Foundation Trusts will be offering free public spirometry, the most effective test of lung heath, in Birmingham as the ECC asks Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to make lung testing a basic health right for all across Europe and to place greater emphasis on training for healthcare professionals.

With lung diseases now the leading cause of death globally, mortality due to COPD has doubled in the last three decades and is furthermore projected to increase by more than 30 per cent in the next 10 years worldwide without interventions to cut risks . Regular and early lung testing would help people identify the debilitating condition before too much damage is done; giving them a chance to slow the disease’s progression before it completely ruins their lung function. However, with COPD still underdiagnosed in 75% of cases, research amongst healthcare professionals suggests spirometry is either not being used or is being used ineffectively, leading to inaccurate results .
According to ECC, better testing promises to reduce the significant burden of COPD, which is currently costing the individual health services across the EU in excess of 8 billion euros every year. They argue that more needs to be done to ensure healthcare professionals are educated and trained both to provide and to accurately interpret, spirometry tests. Funding needs to be made available to allow this to happen.

Heralding England as an exemplar, with its action plan on COPD , the ECC also pointed to the dearth of health promotion activity to drive awareness of COPD across Europe and to the very limited investment in research on COPD. According to the latest data, considerably less money is devoted to research on respiratory diseases in most European countries than the impact of the condition justifies. What’s more, only a tenth of the budget currently dedicated to respiratory diseases goes to asthma and COPD, despite these posing the most significant challenge .

The ECC is demanding policy-makers follow the English example and help establish action plans on COPD across the EU – prioritising spirometry testing; training programmes like the European Spirometry Driving Licence; and prevention and innovative approaches like exercise-on-prescription, which recognises the important impact exercise has on lung health.

Catherine Hartmann, Secretary General of the European COPD Coalition said:
“Despite the magnitude of its current impact, dealing with COPD could actually be a relatively quick win for policy makers. Earlier diagnosis stands to reduce the burden of the disease considerably, both for patients and the health service. The need for quality spirometry testing as standard, and adequate training for the clinicians who deliver it, must finally be put on the agenda.”

Monica Fletcher, Chair of the European Lung Foundation (ELF), a member of the ECC said:

“For too long lung diseases like COPD have been ignored at a European level with other diseases taking priority. With up to 10% of adults in Europe living with COPD , it’s time for this to change. The number one focus must be on early diagnosis to ensure people are started on the correct treatments when they can still make a difference – and that includes keeping physically active. Spirometry can play a key part in this diagnosis and we’d urge policy makers to make it a basic right for all.”

Doctors and nurses will take to the streets across Europe on World Spirometry Day on 27 June to run public lung testing events to raise awareness of spirometry testing. Spirometry testing should be seen as an “MOT for your lungs” to remind people just how critical lung testing is.

To attend the Birmingham event or arrange interviews or images, please contact Rakhee Shah on +44 20 7815 3900 or

For information about World Spirometry Day, and the testing events taking place across Europe, please visit:
World Spirometry Day (27th June)
World Spirometry Day is an awareness campaign that offers people the chance to test their lung health and demonstrates the importance of sport and healthy lungs. World Spirometry Day 2012 coincides with the Olympic Games and aims to encourage people to exercise and look after their lungs regardless of their age or physical ability.

Health professionals around the world will organise lung function testing events for the general public, known as spirometry events. Doctors will be available at these events to offer further advice and to answer any concerns about lung health.

The event will comprise of tests taking place at a global level.
Spirometry – the gold standard in lung testing
In the same way that blood pressure measurements provide a convenient yet effective screening method for cardiovascular disease, spirometry tests can help to unmask the early symptoms of a variety of lung diseases before any more obvious signs appear.

Having a spirometry test performed to screen for lung disease is recommended for those over 40 or current or former smokers. In a recent study, smokers with abnormalities on their lung function tests were at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Further information about the European Spirometry Driving License can be found here:

About the ECC
The European COPD Coalition was created to work with all parties interested in fighting COPD and public health officials to boost awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and decrease the morbidity and mortality caused by this respiratory illness, through advocacy and policy development.

ECC is a not-for-profit association under Belgian law, based in Brussels, whose role is to advocate for political action to be taken at the European level to reduce the burden of the disease through collective action and campaigns, seeking the development and implementation of a comprehensive EU public health policy on COPD. ECC aims to be a key facilitator of COPD health policy initiatives at European level.

About the ELF - The European Lung Foundation is the public voice of the European Respiratory Society (ERS). As a member of the ECC, the aim of the organisation is to translate into lay terms and disseminate the most up-to-date scientific information from the respiratory professionals at the ERS to patients, the public, media and politicians throughout Europe. The ELF website is an important communication tool as it is translated into 8 different European Languages and contains information on lung health and disease at all levels. It is visited daily by >1,500 people worldwide.

Lauren Anderson | idw
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