COPD Foundation Responds to Evidence Showing Full Severity of COPD in Each State

WASHINGTON, DC – November 21, 2012 – The COPD Foundation (COPDF) today announced that data gathered by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), provides the first-ever state-specific data demonstrating the severe impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The data shows that COPD’s impact is severe but not uniform, with some US states showing much higher prevalence than others, ranging from a high of 9.3% in Kentucky and 9.1% in Alabama to a low of 3.1% in Puerto Rico and 3.9% in Minnesota and Washington.

“We applaud the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute for collecting this eye-opening and highly valuable data, which will bring greater awareness and involvement by community leaders and policymakers in the battle against this debilitating disease,” says John W. Walsh, president and co-founder of the COPD Foundation.

“Understanding how COPD affects underserved communities will galvanize efforts to reach at-risk individuals and target programs, research and resources.”

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US. An estimated 12 million more individuals may be impacted by the disease, adding increased impetus for action given today’s report on the already significant diagnosed population. COPD develops slowly, with symptoms often worsening over time and becoming a major disability. 

Sponsored by the CDC, BRFSS included COPD in its 2011 survey for the first time to determine its prevalence, collecting data monthly in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam. Nearly 500,000 individuals were surveyed. 21 additional states, DC and Puerto Rico asked an additional 5 question module that detailed diagnostic testing, impact on quality of life and utilization of healthcare services as a result of COPD.  By increasing the measurable data about COPD in all 50 states, the COPD Foundation can highlight problem areas and discuss the disease in terms of risk populations, number of individuals with COPD, and state-specific data.

David M. Mannino, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, says, “This report represents movement towards implementing the goals described in the CDC’s recent publication, ‘Public Health Strategic Framework for COPD Prevention.’ In addition to improving COPD Surveillance, other goals noted in that publication include improving COPD-related public health research and prevention strategies, improving COPD-related programs and policies, and improving COPD-related public health communication.”

The MMWR demonstrates that COPD is an emerging public health crisis, and includes these trends:

  • Women reported higher rates of COPD than men (6.7% to 5.2%)
  • COPD is not a disease of the elderly, highlighting the need for employers to take action. Prevalence in the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups was reported as 6.6% and 9.2% respectively
  • The disparities in COPD among people with lower income levels (9.9% in individuals with incomes less than $25,000), along with the healthcare costs associated with COPD, mean state policy makers have an imperative to take action
  • COPD is not just being reported in current or former smokers, thus indicating effects of genetic, environmental and occupational risk factors. 24.9% of those who reported COPD indicated they had never smoked and 63.1% of reported COPD was in never or former smokers. 
  • The prevalence of COPD jumped to more than 20% in individuals who also reported ever having been diagnosed with asthma. 
  • The optional module data highlight that there is still work to do towards ensuring eveyone with COPD receives spirometry testing to confirm their diagnosis. Rates of reported spirometry ranged from 57.3% in Puerto Rico to 81.2% in Nevada. 
  • The impact that COPD has on an individuals' quality of life was clear with an average of 64.2% indicating that shortness of breath impaired their quality of life 
  • The optional module also showcased the heavy utilization of healthcare services by those with COPD. 55.6% reported taking at least one daily medication for COPD, 43.2% had visited a physician for their COPD and 17.7% had visited the ER or had been admitted to the hospital, all within the last 12 months.

Walsh adds, "The BRFSS data provides the fuel we need to rally communities, further our grassroots network, enhance out-reach to state officials and employers, and encouraged individuals to take that first, all-important step to determine their risk by taking the COPD Risk Screener."