The Importance of COPD Education and Awareness
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) does not have the voice it needs to be heard. Unless someone starts a gimmick like the ice bucket challenge for ALS to raise awareness, educating others is a challenge in itself.
Despite the seriousness and prevalence of COPD, it can go undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness. Many people think of COPD patients as elderly smokers. Even worse, the symptoms of COPD may be viewed as a natural part of getting older, so medical attention is put off by the patient, and oftentimes, the physician.
The focus of raising awareness starts with physicians in the primary care setting. They are the health professionals who are on the front line of patient assessment. They need to be educated about how this disease is a heavy burden on the healthcare system. For the awareness strategy to work, these physicians need to be empowered as well. They need to know:
- COPD-like symptoms mean something when presented in people who don’t fit the look of a COPD patient. They need to realize that patients with COPD will not fit nicely in a predictable category.
- Not all patients will be elderly and infirm.
- Smoking is not the only cause of COPD.
Spirometry needs to be available to make an objective diagnosis; the numbers (or data) will confirm the diagnosis. Many physicians may need to have information about spirometry and what the data means when performed on a patient. Clinical relevance of the data should coincide with the information so that the patient is treated accordingly.
It is also very important for the general public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of COPD, so they can recognize them in themselves or their loved ones and seek treatment as soon as possible.
The Importance of Education
In 2012 the World Health Organization listed COPD as the third leading cause of death in the world, behind heart disease and stroke. Most people could tell you what heart disease and stroke are, but look at you blankly when you say COPD.
Educating people about the life COPD patients lead is an important step to helping them understand the trials we go through in everyday life. This in turn can help in breaking down certain barriers that can be highly stressful for a COPD patient. Creating more pulmonary rehabilitation centres and removing the many restrictions we deal with having oxygen on air travel are just a couple.
Next page: fighting stigma and raising awareness of COPD.