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AARC Pushes for COPD Awareness as CDC Releases Report

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November 26, 2012

AARC calls for respiratory therapists to get more involved in COPD awareness programs after the release of a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that shows COPD is a health crisis that deserves more focus and attention.

The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System included COPD in its 2011 survey for the first time ever, in an attempt to attempt to establish its U.S. prevalence. The data demonstrate COPD’s nationwide impact is severe but not consistent from state-to-state.

Nearly 500,000 individuals were surveyed in 2011. In addition to the prevalence question, 21 additional states included another 5-question module that described diagnostic testing, impact on quality of life and utilization of healthcare services as a result of COPD.

“The ability to quantitate the prevalence and impact of COPD is an important first step in raising public awareness of the third leading cause of death in the United States,” says George Gaebler MSEd, RRT, FAARC, president of the AARC.

“We applaud the CDC and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for initiating this survey to increase focus on COPD and provide this valuable data in hopes that it will create greater awareness and involvement in community advocacy and a broader attention from policymakers in the battle against this debilitating disease,” concludes President Gaebler.

Thomas Kallstrom MBA, RRT, FAARC, Executive Director of the AARC, states “The ability to share this data upon its release with our 52,000 plus members is significant to the respiratory care profession so that they can better serve as an advocate for their patients and families to receive the necessary screening, diagnosis and care for COPD to minimize its negative impact.”

The report provides tangible evidence to the community and policymakers that COPD is an emerging public health crisis that requires more attention and focus, and includes these trends:

  • COPD is not just a disease diagnosed in current or former smokers, but has demonstrated effects of genetic, environmental and occupational risk factors
  • COPD is not a stereotypical disease of those over 65. Prevalence in the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups was reported as 6.6% and 9.2% respectively highlighting the need for employers to take action in screening their employees
  • An alarming, yet not surprising revelation that women reported higher COPD rates than men (6.7% to 5.2%)
  • The disparities in COPD among lower income individuals (9.9% with incomes less than $25,000), along with the healthcare costs associated with COPD, mean state policy makers have an imperative to take action in today’s healthcare climate
  • The impact that COPD has on an individuals’ quality of life was clear with an average of 64.2% indicating that shortness of breath impaired their quality of life
  •  A connection between COPD and asthma as the prevalence jumped to more than 20% in individuals who also reported having been diagnosed with asthma in the lifetime
  • The optional module data highlighted that there is still work to do towards ensuring everyone with a COPD receives spirometry testing to confirm their diagnosis.  Rates of reported spirometry ranged from 57.3% in Puerto Rico to 81.2% in Nevada

Kallstrom concludes, “The CDC report highlights the need to rally the respiratory community to continue its mission as it relates to COPD diagnosis, management and care. AARC has been conducting COPD screening events nationwide for years with its partners at the COPD Foundation to bring greater awareness and advocacy to this debilitating disease. This data provides solid proof to what AARC and its partners have been advocating for years—better focus, the need to screen individuals at risk, appropriate diagnosis by spirometry, and hopefully improved management and care of individuals with COPD that lead to improved outcomes and a better quality of life.”

As part of its mission, the AARC has pursued the ability “to serve as an advocate for patients, their families, and the public” for more than six decades. One such recent effort of public outreach over the past several years is its involvement from the beginning in the DRIVE4COPD campaign (, an effort to raise public awareness and an education campaign for COPD with our partners at the COPD Foundation (