ALA Better Breathers Clubs

The American Lung Association's Better Breathers Clubs bring together individuals with COPD, and other lung disease to talk about managing their symptoms and coping through everyday life. Led by trained facilitators, these in-person adult support groups are located in communities across the country.

Sandy Kistner is a registered respiratory therapist at the New Ulm Medical Center, and for five years she's been a BBC facilitator in New Ulm, Minnesota. We asked her some questions about what it's like to lead these support groups and what members can expect.

What kinds of things do you do at Better Breathers Club meetings and how often do you meet with the club?

Our group meets every other month and our participants usually start coming in 20 to 30 minutes before the start time. During this time, I try to answer any concerns they may have and ask them for future topic ideas. After signing in and picking up drinks and a snack, we typically start with a speaker. We have a casual meeting, which allows the participants the opportunity to ask questions throughout. I end each meeting with the newest research or medical breakthroughs, which may include new medications or treatment recommendations. I also invite sales reps to show the group equipment that may benefit them at home.

Who comes to Better Breathers Club meetings and how do you build a rapport with them?

I have met about 75 percent of these patients in pulmonary rehabilitation, so I use this group as an opportunity to see them face to face and attempt to keep them motivated to continue daily exercise, within their limitation. The American Lung Association helps publicize the meeting in the local newspaper and on, so we often get community members that have questions or concerns about their lung health. Some of those patients have gone on to attended pulmonary rehab, so BBC has also been a referral source for our nationally certified pulmonary rehab program in New Ulm.

What do you want club members to take away?

I want them to gain one nugget of information that they can apply to their personal lifestyle to improve their quality of life. We do a post-lecture evaluation, and this information helps me understand if the topic we discussed was applicable to most participants. Their feedback is honest and makes our program the best it can be.

Learn more about American Lung Association Better Breathers Clubs and find one near you at

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