Ontario Lung Association Joins Forces with Health Advocates to Tackle Lung Disease
Toronto - Today, more than 2.4 million Ontarians are struggling to breathe. With this number likely to grow by 50 per cent within 30 years, the Ontario Lung Association, in collaboration with more than 40 lung health stakeholders, is placing an urgent call to the Ontario government for the development of an Ontario Lung Health Action Plan.
New research, commissioned by the Ontario Lung Association, suggests that if provincial decision makers don't act now, close to 5 million people will be diagnosed with a lung disease, such as asthma, COPD or lung cancer over the next 30 years.
"The fact is millions of Ontarians are struggling to breathe. Yes, much good work has been done, and we have seen some encouraging progress, but we can't stop now. Our families and friends are still suffering with diseases such as lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema," says George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association, explaining the urgent need for an Ontario Lung Health Action Plan.
"We are looking to the government of Ontario to help us help you - as partners and as members of the lung health community, we can improve the situation, we just have to do it now and do it together."
Lung Disease Touches All Ontarians
Whether through personal experience or economic impact, lung disease has a broad reach, touching millions of Ontario men, women and children. The Ontario Lung Association recently commissioned research to help measure the extent and cost of lung disease now and 30 years in the future.
The preliminary findings underscore the need for immediate action. Key findings include the following:
- COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a serious lung disease and is one of the most significant chronic health burdens in Ontario. There are currently 780,000 Ontarians living with COPD - that's greater than the population of the city of Mississauga. The number of people with COPD is expected to escalate to 1.2 million in the next 30 years.
- A staggering 1.7 million people in Ontario are living with asthma and almost one quarter of them are children. This number continues to climb, reaching approximately 2.6 million in 30 years.
- Today, an estimated 33,000 Ontarians have lung cancer. This is expected to almost double to 63,000 people in 30 years. Over the next 30 years, approximately 310,000 individuals will be told they have lung cancer - a disease that kills eight out of 10 people who have it.
Lung Disease Is Personal
The impact of lung disease goes beyond facts and figures - there is a profound impact on the quality of life of people living with lung diseases and their families.
"I have COPD, but I can still carry on, I can live a normal life," says Brenda Cunningham, COPD patient and lung health advocate. "But I only put that on the outside. You don't see what's inside and what's inside is the time that you spend alone - terrified - that you're going to choke to death because every day, every day with this disease is a struggle to breathe, to survive. Just to survive is very difficult with COPD."
Practical Interventions Can Have Major Impact The research also included four sample "interventions" or "what if" questions. Each question represented a practical suggestion related to improving lung health in Ontario. The answers to those four questions illustrate how immediate and achievable changes will not only reduce suffering and deaths by improving the lung health of Ontarians, but will also save taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.
- Early detection can have a significant impact on the progression of COPD, and a simple breathing test, called spirometry, is already widely available but not routinely administered. By providing health care professionals with the support and resources they need to administer and interpret the test for all people at risk of COPD, the disease can be detected earlier. Early detection generally motivates people to quit smoking sooner, which can reduce disease progression by about 75 per cent for former smokers as compared to current smokers.
- Similarly, by making medication and behavioural counselling available to the one million Ontario smokers who want to quit, we can actually prevent up to 163,000 cases of COPD and 62,200 cases of lung cancer, saving taxpayers almost $10 billion over 30 the next years.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation can have a significant impact on the quality of life of a person with COPD, but currently less than 2 per cent of COPD patients have access to pulmonary rehabilitation.
- By making pulmonary rehabilitation available to all people suffering with moderate to severe COPD, the average number of hospitalizations would be decreased by 22 per cent; days spent in hospital, by 50 per cent; emergency department visits, by 24 per cent; and medication use for flare ups, by 63 per cent.
- An effective model for asthma management, including patient education, is currently available in only some Ontario communities. The model was developed for family doctors and other health care professionals, however, it is not widely available across the province.
- If all patients with COPD have access to this approach we could reduce COPD hospitalizations and emergency department visits by about 40 per cent each (39.8 per cent and 41 per cent respectively).
- If all children with asthma were treated with this approach, 70 per cent fewer children would have to go to the emergency room because of their disease.
"Every day I see what lung disease does to my patients and the impact it has on their families," says Dr. John Granton, associate professor of medicine, University of Toronto; past chair, Ontario Thoracic Society; president of the Canadian Critical Care Society. "The good news is that we already have a very clear sense of how to proceed. We have the expertise across Ontario to make a tremendous impact on lung health."
An Ontario Lung Health Action Plan
The Ontario Lung Association, along with more than 40 lung health champions, is eager to assist the government of Ontario to develop a Lung Health Action Plan. This plan should:
- Promote respiratory health among Ontarians
- Accelerate investment in all areas of lung health research
- Recognize the importance of prevention, detection and early intervention
- Improve indoor and outdoor air quality in Ontario
- Ensure fair and equitable patient access to all proven and effective classes of medication, devices and evidence-based supports.
"As Ontarians committed to the life and breath of our children, families and friends, we will accept nothing less than the government's commitment to an Ontario Lung Health Action Plan. Millions of lives depend on it," said Mr. Habib.
To learn more about how you can support the lung health action plan, and to sign the petition, visit www.on.lung.ca. When you can't breathe, nothing else matters.TM
About Ontario Lung Association
The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest voluntary, not-for-profit health-promotion organizations. The Lung Association is concerned with the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease caused by smoking and with air quality and its effect on lung health.
The Ontario Lung Association was incorporated in 1945, and has community offices across the province. Visit the Ontario Lung Association online at www.on.lung.ca, or call 1-888-344-LUNG for more information.
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