Preliminary findings by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research along with Survey Research Group and Public Health Institute (PHI) reveal that many people in California diagnosed with COPD have never smoked, are under the age of 45, and are women, providing a striking contrast to the perception that the disease is only a 'smokers' condition affecting men and older people
New data shows an estimated 1.1 million Californians, with nearly 200,000 in Los Angeles County, have been diagnosed with COPD.
"BREATHE LA (BLA) funded the UCLA research to fill a significant gap in the understanding of COPD's impact in California. We now know COPD prevalence in the state is more complex than many people realize," said Enrique Chiock, BLA President and CEO.
"COPD progressively destroys the lungs and has no cure. Mortality rates continue to rise, yet many people with COPD are undiagnosed or are unaware of the lifestyle changes needed to manage the condition and improve their quality of life," said leading pulmonologist Dr. Guy Soo Hoo, a former BLA Board Chair. "This data gives us hard numbers to show to policymakers and the medical community that we are in the midst of a public health crisis. The cost of COPD to our economy and to our healthcare industry needs to be mitigated through prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment."
According to National Institute of Health findings, despite nearly 140,000 annual COPD deaths, government funding for disease research and programs is dwarfed by funding for other diseases, such as AIDS/HIV. For example, funding for AIDS/HIV research and programs is nearly 30 times greater than that for COPD, even though COPD claims nearly 15 times as many lives each year.
BREATHE LA's advocacy focus is to raise awareness and promote solutions for the COPD crisis. BLA representatives recently discussed the data with Congressman Henry A. Waxman, D-California, a longtime advocate of lung health.
"The increase in COPD is yet another result of tobacco's harmful effects and the dangers of polluted air. COPD is now the third leading cause of death nationwide. An estimated 12 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease and another 12 million may be affected by the disease but are undiagnosed. Californians, especially those of us from Los Angeles, know firsthand how important it is to have clean air to breathe," Rep. Waxman said. "I will continue my ongoing efforts to address the primary causes of COPD - killer tobacco and dirty air. And, I am encouraged that organizations like BREATHE LA are passionate about doing the same."
The UCLA report, which will be released later this year, will be important for understanding how COPD is currently diagnosed and treated. For example, preliminary analyses show approximately one-third of those diagnosed with COPD never received a spirometry test, though this is the only approved method for diagnosis.
"COPD remains a significant public health burden. There is still ample room for improvement in adherence to primary prevention and treatment," said Dr. Ying-Ying Meng, lead author of the report and Co-Director, of the Chronic Disease Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "Our findings highlight the need to incorporate prevention, early diagnosis and treatment strategies that aim at reducing activity limitations, emergency department visits and mortality due to COPD."
The preliminary data analysis will be discussed as part of BREATHE LA's "Living Well with COPD" Fourth COPD Conference on November 14 (World COPD Awareness Day) in Los Angeles. The Conference will feature presentations on approaches to address the disease, promoting prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and management. For more information about the conference and to register to attend, visit http://www.breathela.org/COPDConference2012 .