We all need to breathe. It’s essential to human existence and of vital importance to each and every one of us. But we rarely think about the 22,000 daily breaths we take until we have trouble taking them. With one in five Canadians living with lung disease, too many of us are struggling to breathe.

The socioeconomic impact of lung disease in Ontario is staggering. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the number one cause of hospitalization in the province. Lung cancer kills more people than breast, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancers combined, one in four children are affected by asthma, and it is estimated that more than 2.8 million Ontarians live with some form of lung disease. The cost? Our provincial health care system is spending billions of dollars annually to deal with the fallout related to COPD and other conditions related to chronic lung disease.

Each of us has an important role to play in our collective lung health. We need to promote healthy breathing by fighting for policies that protect our air and lungs. We need to support and advocate on behalf of those living with lung disease and continue to break down the stigma they may face throughout their journey. We need to invest in education and research to find new treatments and cures for a variety of lung diseases, especially since lung research and programming are critically underfunded.

If we sit idle, the incidence of lung disease will grow by 50 percent in just one generation. We cannot pass this burden down to our future. Through collaboration, innovation, and research, we can create a better future for us all.

Together, we will achieve the breathing breakthroughs of tomorrow.