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OPINION

World COPD Day 2011: how do we change perceptions?

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Join the debate online on Wednesday 16 November - World COPD Day 2011.

At Education for Health (EfH) we believe it is vital to use this opportunity to challenge the lingering perception that COPD is a self-inflicted disease, caused solely by smoking. Only by doing so can we challenge the culture of blame that persists around COPD.

Today we are inviting Nursing Times readers, many of whom we have worked with many times in the past, to join us and help change perceptions of COPD. We want to hear about your experiences of COPD; what are your perceptions and perceptions in your practice? What are the demographics of your own COPD patients?

We will be hosting a live Twitter chat on the day so follow us @edforhealth and join the debate.

We are also launching a Facebook page to capture some of this conversation so please check for regular updates leading up to World COPD Day.

For a number of years, EfH have been pioneering a major research project which has gathered data from across the UK and the wider world. COPD Uncovered has unveiled the true impact of COPD, and revealed a hitherto unseen impact on working age populations. It is estimated, for example, that, of the 210 million people with COPD worldwide, half are of working age. The costs of COPD, ranging from quality of life to healthcare utilisation, are a disaster in terms of health economics and also a personal tragedy for the many millions of people whose quality of life is diminished. People at the peak of their working lives, whose children are growing up and having children of their own, are being denied the chance to make the most of their lives. Instead they find themselves in poor health, struggling to pay the bills and unable to play a full, active role in family life.

Another theme that has been prominent in our research is the complexity of this condition. We are not diagnosing COPD early enough so, by the time we do diagnose, it can be accompanied by a range of comorbidities like heart disease, high blood pressure and psychological conditions like depression. In fact COPD has higher mortality rates than better known conditions like diabetes. So, why are we failing to tackle COPD proactively, effectively and, crucially, early? Is it a question of resources, skills, perceptions? Let us know what you think.

So, why are we failing to tackle COPD proactively, effectively and, crucially, early? Is it a question of resources, skills, perceptions? Let us know what you think.

Until society understands that COPD is a complex, dynamic health issue with an equally complex demographic, our ability to tackle it will remain flawed. This is not an issue that will go away; in fact it is getting worse. 16 November is the day we must begin a national debate and reveal the uncomfortable truth of COPD.

Does the above resonate with your experience in practice? Do you screen for COPD? What impact is COPD having on your patients and in your area? Join our debate next Wednesday 16 November at 4pm @edforhealth and share your thoughts and experiences.

For a fully referenced version of this article click here.

Candy Perry is Director of Education for Health.

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