November is National COPD Awareness Month
Many health organizations, including COPD.net, will be spending the month of November educating people, politicians, corporations and others about the human cost of COPD as well as the cost to the U.S. economy and society. Through these efforts they will be making as many people as possible aware of COPD, who has it, what it’s like to live with it, and what can be done about it.
When we speak about being “aware,” I think the word brings different things to mind for different people.
To me, it’s essentially being conscious, mindful, or informed of someone or something needing our attention or of a situation usually close at hand. In terms of COPD, it’s meaning can be quite expansive.
Is the rest of the world aware of what it’s like to live with COPD as compared to those of us who do? Can anyone who has not experienced COPD be aware of what it is like to have to gasp for breath after taking just a few steps; or of not being able to go out to dinner, a show, a friend’s house for an evening, for fear you could pass out.
Can awareness lead to an understanding of what it must be like going to the cinema and spending the whole film self-conscious because you have a persistent cough.
Are folks themselves aware that they may have COPD? Symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic coughing, and wheezing, come on slowly and worsen over time. Many folks mistake these symptoms as a part of aging and, as a result, will delay seeking a diagnosis.
I've heard some folks, who have experienced COPD symptoms, say they have not sought a doctor because they “have had these problems for years.”
Are our elected representatives aware of the effects of COPD on a family, a friend, or a loved one and how effective they can be in helping? If so, have they advocated for more research funding? There are some COPD organizations that are dedicated to this kind of political advocacy.1
In the United States alone, an estimated 16 million adults have COPD. I was not aware of such a high number. And although COPD is the third largest killer in the United States, it receives nowhere near what #1 killer (Cancer $1.8 billion) and #2 killer (heart disease, $1.2 billion) receive in research funding? The research funding dedicated to COPD for the coming year 2019 will be $97 million dollars. While that may be an impressive figure, in 2015 it was $107 million dollars.2,3
If you look at the research page of the National Institute of Health (NIH) website, you’ll find this funding explanation:
“NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world. Each year, Federal funds are obligated by Congress for the pursuit of research objectives.”4,5
No one wants to see scarce research dollars being moved from one category of disease to another. Those suffering from other diseases are as needy as we are for research to find a cure.
And it seems that because of a lack of awareness of COPD, many people live with its symptoms for years before talking to a health care provider.
Synptoms and education
COPD, symptoms — such as a chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, excessive phlegm production or being unable to take a deep breath — come on slowly and worsen over time. Symptoms are sometimes brushed off as a sign of aging, being out of shape or having a cold, and breathing problems are not discussed with a health care provider during a regular check-up.
Education is such a large component of awareness of any subject matter.
It especially holds true for COPD. It’s critical that we look for opportunities to make our friends, families, co-workers and even casual acquaintances aware of the dangers of COPD (smoking!!!!) and how they can be helpful in obtaining increased funding for research among other needs.
I'm not saying we should become a COPD bore, but we can make an awareness difference!
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?