Experts Call for National Strategies to Tackle COPD - An Emerging Epidemic in the Workforce

November 17, 2010

New report highlights devastating impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in people of working age. Nearly 1 in 5 45-68 year olds with COPD surveyed were forced to retire prematurely.

LONDON, UK - November 17, 2010 – COPD Uncovered 2010, a new report issued today, exposes the devastating economic, social and personal impact of COPD in the 40–65 years age group – the mainstay of the global workforce1,2. These results have led respiratory experts to call for the implementation of National Strategies to tackle this disease in the working age population.

Authored by Education for Health and other leading specialists, the report uncovers the true cost of COPD in the working age population and reveals its significant impact on work and quality of life. The authors are appealing to policy makers, the medical community and other stakeholders such as employers to create and implement tactics such as earlier diagnosis and management, in order to keep people healthy and productive for longer3.

“It’s an economic time-bomb” said Monica Fletcher, Chief Executive of Education for Health. “The key generation driving the economy in most countries are people aged 40–65 years and in this harsh economic climate, we need to ensure they stay active and productive. With the incidence of COPD set to rise, with increasing numbers of women being affected than previously thought, it can only mean that personal and societal cost will also increase.”

“COPD is often considered a disease of old men, but there are far more people aged under 65 years with this condition than previously recognised. We are calling for policy makers to prioritise the early diagnosis and integrated management of COPD in this population”.

COPD has wide ranging implications not only for the affected individual, but also for the wider community. According to the report, in the UK alone, the economic burden of disease is UK£1.5 billion per annum5 a similar cost to that incurred by European airlines due to the recent Icelandic ash cloud! This includes not only direct healthcare costs, but factors such as lost income tax, payment of state benefits and productivity loss due to COPD. These calculations are based on the current age of retirement, but as many people expect to have to work beyond their official retirement date6, the economic impact will continue to rise.

COPD is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most serious health issues, affecting 210 million people worldwide4, but only half of these people have been diagnosed. COPD can dramatically impair the productivity of this population. However, it is preventable and treatable and we encourage those with symptoms such as persistent cough with phlegm, breathlessness or a wheezy chest to visit their healthcare provider for a lung function test.

Click here to read the full report.