It’s Time For Action On Lung Health
Education and Advocacy We take about 20,000 breaths each day. For those coping with lung diseases or poor lung health, every breath can be a challenge.
Lung health affects us all, whether it’s through personal experience or economic impact. According to the World Health Organization, lung disease will soon be the third leading cause of death in the world. It is gender neutral and affects people of all ages.
A social burden
Despite progress achieved over the years in both prevention and treatment, lung diseases continue to have a devastating impact on both the physical and economic health of Ontarians, taking a huge toll in lost lives, lost economic productivity and costs to our health-care system. But perhaps the most significant impact is on the quality of life for individuals and families facing a life-long battle with lung disease.
"According to the World Health Organization, lung disease will soon be the third leading cause of death in the world."
Today, more than 2.4 million people in Ontario — one in five — are living with a serious lung disease. This number is expected to grow by 50 percent, to an alarming 3.6 million in the next 30 years. Within a single generation, the direct and indirect costs of lung disease are projected to balloon from the current $4 billion to more than $310 billion.
But lung disease isn’t just about facts and figures. It’s up close and personal and it affects real people every day in ways that other diseases don’t. Along with the physical challenges, many patients also have to cope with the stigma that surrounds a disease that is so strongly associated with smoking and often considered self-inflicted. People who stopped smoking years ago, or who never smoked, feel unjustly blamed for their illness. Interactions with family, friends and even doctors can be affected. Some patients even conceal their illness, making it hard for them to get the treatment and support they need. They feel embarrassed or humiliated to suffer from a smoking-related illness.
The need for change
That stigma may help to explain why lung disease just doesn’t get the same attention as other illnesses. Of the four chronic diseases currently responsible for eight in 10 deaths in Ontario — cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and lung disease — only lung disease is without a coordinated comprehensive provincial strategy. Similarly, lung disease research is critically underfunded. Of the $4.5 billion in federal funds invested in medical research this century, only four percent has been allocated for lung research.
"Along with the physical challenges, many patients also have to cope with the stigma that surrounds a disease that is so strongly associated with smoking and often considered self-inflicted.”
Clearly, fundamental changes are needed in the way we think about and deal with lung disease. As you read the information in these pages, I hope that you will gain a better understanding of the enormous challenges lung disease presents and of the need for urgent action to address them.