Each year there is a theme for World COPD Day. This year’s theme in my view is very relevant to how we should approach COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), now and into the future. Bringing patients, healthcare professionals and researchers together in the fight against this debilitating disease can only lead to better outcomes.
In recent years it has become widely accepted patients can not only give valuable insights into their disease, but they can also play a vital role in improving their own quality of life. Like many patients, when I was first diagnosed there was little information about how I could improve my quality of life. Taking your medications and taking it easy was the advice generally given.
Fast forward to 2019 and much has changed. We now know exercise and lifestyle factors can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life. Programs like pulmonary rehabilitation have benefitted patients greatly. While we still have a long way to go in terms of patient access to these programs we are heading in the right direction.
With a growing amount of science and antidotall evidence supporting pulmonary rehabilitation, healthcare professionals are more willing to refer patients to these programs. In my own example my doctor and I have seen the difference in my health before and after adopting exercise.
From the medical community’s point of view, patients have become a go to resource in trying to understand how COPD affects them symptomatically and their overall quality of life. While COPD has an underlying commonality, there are differences from patient to patient. Patients can now be seen speaking at respiratory conferences, hospital settings and pharmaceutical conferences.
Recently I have accepted an invitation to co-author a paper on how oxygen is prescribed in our local hospital settings. Along with this I’m also involved in a case study on the role of nutrition in managing COPD. As a patient it is heart-warming and gives me hope for the future when we see our healthcare professionals willing to co-design with patients.
Many patient advocates from around the world are making big inroads into having their voice heard – from town hall meetings in the United States to put together a COPD National Action Plan, to The Lung Foundation Australia’s patients’ advisory group who are helping to design the future direction of support programs.
COPD research dollars to rate of death ratio is one of the worst globally. For a disease which WHO (World Health Organisation), predicts will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, funding is desperately needed. Other better funded diseases are seeing new medication which improve patient’s quality of life. Sadly, it’s been decades since COPD has seen any new medications.
I sincerely hope World COPD Day 2019 marks a new era in a more united respiratory community. We need to work together to demand more from our governments and funding agencies so researchers can discover new medications. We also need to realise the value of all stakeholders in the respiratory community, so we can embrace this year’s theme – “All Together to End COPD”