September 25, 2019
3 min read

World Lung Day 2019: A focus on universal health coverage

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Today marks World Lung Day, and this year’s theme is “healthy lungs for all.”

To raise awareness, medical societies, advocacy groups and other organizations are hosting a number of events and social media campaigns and publishing unique journal content in support of global lung health.

According to the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), lung disease affects a significant number of people around the world:

  • Currently, 384 million patients are living with COPD and 3 million die from the disease each year.
  • Globally, 334 million people have asthma — a chronic disease that affects 14% of children.
  • Lung cancer, currently the world’s deadliest cancer, claims an additional 1.76 million lives a year.
  • Ten million people develop tuberculosis and 1.6 million die from it each year.
  • Pneumonia, which claims millions of lives each year, is one of the leading causes of death in the very young and very old.
  • Of the world’s population, 91% resides in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.

Two days ago, the United Nations had a high-level meeting on universal health coverage, which, due to the prevalence of lung-related illness, is also the theme for this year’s World Lung Day.

“Universal health coverage is particularly important to persons with respiratory disease. For example, a break in the supply of medicine for patients with tuberculosis could cause the development of drug resistance, which carries serious consequences. The abrupt unavailability of asthma medicine could cause severe suffering and even death. Lack of health care provider availability usually means delay in diagnosis, which could be fatal for lung cancer patients,” Dean Schraufnagel, MD, executive director of FIRS, said in a press release from the American Thoracic Society.

Therefore, FIRS is calling for universal health coverage action through strengthening health care workers; prioritizing prevention, namely tobacco, as well as air pollution and vaccinations; maintaining a continuous supply of essential medicines; and stemming antibiotic resistance, according to the ATS release.

In addition, FIRS is calling for further action to reduce the burden of respiratory disease and improve global health:

  • Increase awareness among the public and policy makers that respiratory health is a major component of global health.
  • Reduce the use of all tobacco products through universal enforcement of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
  • Adopt and require WHO air quality standards to reduce ambient, indoor and occupational air pollution for all countries.
  • Promote universal access to quality health care, essential medicines and immunizations.
  • Improve early diagnosis of respiratory diseases through increasing public awareness of lung health and disease.
  • Increase training of health professionals worldwide in respiratory disease.
  • Standardize the monitoring and management of respiratory diseases with evidence-based national and international strategies.
  • Increase research to prevent and treat respiratory diseases.

“We hope World Lung Day will provide an opportunity for action, conversation and awareness. A unified voice of all dedicated to respiratory health will be a powerful force,” Schraufnagel said in the release.

Participants are encouraged to share how they are raising awareness by using the hashtag #WorldLungDay on social media.

International events are also being held in observance of the day, including a lung disease conference at King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and a lung cancer workshop hosted by the Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation at the Université Caraïbe in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In honor of World Lung Day, Healio Pulmonology has selected six recent articles highlighting new research in respiratory diseases.

Budesonide-formoterol reliever therapy outperforms maintenance plus as-needed therapy for preventing asthma exacerbations

Data from the PRACTICAL study showed that budesonide-formoterol reliever therapy in a single inhaler for patients with mild to moderate asthma was associated with a 31% reduction in the risk for severe exacerbations, as compared with maintenance budesonide plus terbutaline reliever therapy. Read more

Q&A: Promise of C-reactive protein testing in COPD

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that using a point-of-care C-reactive protein test to guide treatment for COPD exacerbations in primary care lessened the use of antibiotics without worsening outcomes for patients. Read more

Non-small cell lung cancer associated with poorer prognosis in older patients with IPF

Non-small cell lung cancer is associated with poorer prognosis and has a unique presentation in elderly patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a recently published study showed. Read more

FDA approves Nabriva’s Xenleta to treat CABP in adults

The FDA approved Xenleta, a novel antibiotic to treat adults with community-acquired bacterial pneumonia, or CABP. Read more

TB rates declining among US children, but disparities persist

Although the rate of new tuberculosis cases among U.S. children and adolescents has decreased by nearly half in recent years, incidence of the disease remains disproportionately high among certain ethnic, racial and geographic communities, researchers reported in The Lancet Public Health. Read more

Air pollution may raise mortality risk

In a study of more than 600 cities around the world, short-term exposure to air pollutants was linked to increased risks for all-cause, cardiovascular and respiratory mortality. Read more

For more information on World Lung Day, please visit the FIRS website: