rom the moment we enter the world, the urge to breathe is the most compelling drive we share. Breathing is the life force that gives us energy, strength, and resilience. It’s something that we do all the time — 22,000 times a day, every day of our lives. It’s so natural and automatic that most of us never even think about it; this life-giving act just happens and goes mostly unnoticed.

That is not the case for the one in five Canadians who struggle to breathe. For them, breathing is hardly ever automatic. Rather, it’s a constant struggle that affects almost every aspect of their daily lives.

While Canada has come a long way in understanding and treating lung disease, breathing challenges continue to exact an enormous human and economic toll. The numbers are simply staggering. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has become the number one cause of hospitalization, asthma attacks cause over 70,000 emergency room visits annually, and lung cancer takes more lives than breast, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

Three recent Canadian studies looking at different aspects of lung disease — asthma, COPD, and lung cancer – only serve to underscore the severity of the issue, and to highlight how far we still have to go to build a better breathing future for all of us.

In the first study, The Lung Association commissioned a national survey of people living with asthma and the physicians who treat the disease to better understand the current asthma landscape in Canada. What we found was a major disconnect between perception and reality, namely that even though most patients thought their condition was well controlled, in nine out of ten cases, it was not. We also learned that asthma is preventing many Canadians from leading regular, active lives.

The results of the COPD study were equally disquieting. In this study, researchers analysed health statistics in B.C. to predict the impact of our aging population on the burden of COPD. They concluded that without a major effort to develop new treatments and management strategies, Canada is facing an epidemic of COPD hospitalizations that threatens to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system within 15 years.

Finally, Health Canada has just released the results of a survey of people living in homes contaminated with high levels of radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. Even though eight Canadians die every day from radon-induced lung cancer, and despite the fact that reducing household radon levels is relatively simple and inexpensive, more than 70 percent of the residents surveyed had taken no action to fix the problem.

These studies just begin to illustrate the broad scope of the issue of lung disease and the challenges to our collective breathing. At The Lung Association, this is what keeps us pushing ahead, whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, helping people to quit smoking and ensuring that children never start, or fighting for clean air.

This November, The Lung Association launches a new brand, one that more fully represents the breadth of the issues we seek to address, and one that symbolizes our unwavering commitment to making Canada a better place to breathe for all of us who share the air — those who have lung disease and those of us who don’t, and hopefully never will.

We’re also introducing an exciting new campaign to get Canadians thinking about their breathing, about why we need to connect with our breath, and why protecting our lungs is so important.

We simply can’t afford to take our breathing for granted any longer. It’s time we #TakeABreather.