Why COPD Awareness Matters
November is COPD Awareness Month. It is a time that many of us will collectively bring more awareness about this disease to the people who really have no idea about what it is. You may see ad campaigns and people talking more about it on social media, but why does making others aware of COPD really matter?
1. You don’t know what you don’t know…
Most people don’t even know that COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and it is the third leading cause of death 1. Some people don’t even know that the word pulmonary means "related to or affecting the lungs" 2.
2. Many don't know the physical effects
Even of those who know what COPD stands for, many don't know what it actually does to the body. They don’t know that the lack of oxygen causes problems with memory and your other vital body systems too 3.
3. Even more don't know the emotional effects
Of the people that have an understanding of what is happening to the body, many don’t know how it effects the patient, mentally and emotionally. The constant trips to the doctor and increasing struggle to breathe wears a person down. It would wear down even the strongest person over time.
4. Awareness reinforces the effects of smoking
Although not all people with COPD smoke, there is a large majority of COPD patients that smoked at some point in their lives. We need to make sure people understand how bad smoking is for lung health 4. Although I do understand that even those that see what COPD can do may still exercise their choice to smoke, it is always best to share the information and let them make their own decisions.
5. It also generates funding for research
The more that people are aware of this disease, the more likely funding can be generated for research. Right now there is no cure or vaccine for COPD. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a cure in our lifetime? This cannot happen without research, and research costs money.
It is important to bring awareness about this disease to the world. As you are living this out day by day, I’m sure you realize that those who don’t know very much about COPD don’t understand that they need to take care of their lungs. It is a vital organ, but just like all of our vital organs, we just expect them to work. Don’t be afraid to talk about what is happening to you. Your loved ones will never fully know the impact of this disease until they really begin hearing it from you.
Caregivers and advocates: maybe it is time for us to take it up a notch. (I’m fussing at myself here too.) We know that the vast majority of people don’t know what COPD is, but what are we doing to make others aware? Maybe it’s time for us to get involved. Participate in events during COPD awareness month.
Talk about it on social media, and if you have the means and the time, organize events that will increase awareness. I hope that you will take your frustrations, your love and your determination and pour it into doing something that will bring COPD into conversations. Maybe, just maybe we can collectively shine a light on this disease and encourage research that will make a difference.
Do you have an exacerbation toolkit?