Today, the nation gets a look at COPD data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). BRFSS – the nation’s largest telephone public health survey –included questions regarding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for the very first time in 2011, which will give the public health system state-specific data to understand how best to tackle COPD!
Volunteer advocacy efforts lead by the COPD Foundation and funding provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), prompted the CDC to include COPD as a core question in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. 21 states, DC and Puerto Rico added an optional module of questions that provide even more information about diagnosis, healthcare utilization and quality of life impact.
This historic day for COPD research would not have happened if not for the tireless work of COPD Foundation advocates and leaders committed to fighting the growing burden of COPD.
The MMWR data shows that COPD’s impact is severe, with some US states showing much higher prevalence than others. Nationally, 6.3% of BRFSS respondents reported a diagnosis of COPD, but the prevalence ranged from a high of 9.3% in Kentucky and 9.1% in Alabama, and a low of 3.1% in Puerto Rico and 3.9% in Minnesota and Washington. The MMWR also showed that many of the high prevalence states were located in the southern part of the U.S. showcasing the need for targeted COPD surveillance, prevention, awareness, and education efforts in the area.
The MMWR demonstrates that COPD is an important public health problem, and includes a number of trends worth noting:
- Women reported higher rates of COPD than men (6.7% to 5.2%).
- COPD is not a disease of the elderly, highlighting the need for employers to take action. Prevalence in the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups was reported as 6.6% and 9.2% respectively.
· The disparities in COPD among people with lower income levels (9.9% in individuals with incomes less than $25,000), combined with the healthcare costs associated with COPD, indicate that state policy makers have an imperative to take action.
· COPD is not just being reported in current or former smokers, thus indicating effects of genetic, environmental and occupational risk factors. 24.9% of those who reported COPD indicated they had never smoked and 63.1% of reported COPD was in never or former smokers
· The prevalence of COPD jumped to more than 20% in individuals who also reported ever having been diagnosed with asthma.
· The optional module data highlighted that there is still work to do toward ensuring everyone with COPD receives spirometry testing to confirm their diagnosis. Rates of reported spirometry ranged from 57.3% in Puerto Rico to 81.2% in Nevada.
· The impact that COPD has on an individuals’ quality of life was clear with an average of 64.2% indicating that shortness of breath impaired their quality of life.
· The optional module also showcased the heavy utilization of healthcare services by those with COPD. 55.6% reported taking at least one daily medication for COPD, 43.2% had visited a physician for their COPD and 17.7% had visited hospital emergency rooms or been admitted to the hospital, all within the last 12 months.
The COPD Foundation, together with its volunteers from public health, medical, scientific, and patient communities have committed to examining the newly-released data to ensure that this information is used to better understand COPD’s impact and how all of us can work together to position these startling numbers as the tipping point in the fight against COPD. We have already strengthened our commitment to partner with NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better® Campaign and recently provided funding for a fellow who is working on-site with our partners at CDC to further assess state infrastructure and activities for COPD.
The challenges faced by the COPD community are large but the opportunities for progress are great. John W. Walsh, president and co-founder of the COPD Foundation says, “The BRFSS data provides the fuel we need to rally communities, further our grassroots network, enhance out-reach to state officials and employers, and encourage individuals to take that first, all-important step to determine their risk by taking the COPD Risk Screener.”
We encourage you to read the full MMWR publication on COPD. Note the editor’s comment stating “the overall prevalence of COPD and its associations with health-care utilization and quality of life make it a serious public health burden that needs to be addressed…” The COPD Foundation, and its’ advocates, have known this to be true for some time and today, the CDC and the NHLBI have announced it to the world. Over the next days, weeks, and months we need you to join us and take action to ensure the message is heard loud and clear. Click here to learn how to become a COPD Advocate today.