Stamping out smoking will contribute significantly to eradicating COPD
Speaking this afternoon (Friday) at the World COPD Day Awareness and Screening Event, which was hosted by Novartis, in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, Fine Gael Cork South Central Deputy and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Jerry Buttimer, said raising awareness of COPD is vital to ensuring that those who have the disease are diagnosed and that they receive the most appropriate treatment to manage their condition.
“The existence of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease remains largely unfamiliar to the majority of the public. But with an estimated 110,000 people in Ireland having been diagnosed the condition and an estimated 200,000 more people thought to have the disease undiagnosed, we cannot afford to ignore it.
“Because of this lack of awareness which leads to low diagnosis, there is a need for measures to increase recognition of COPD among the public and among medical professionals. It is important to acknowledge that, while COPD is among the leading causes of chronic morbidity and mortality in the EU, it is an entirely preventable and treatable disease.
“Tobacco use is an important contributing factor for COPD and unfortunately Ireland has one of the highest rates of smoking in the OECD, at around 30%. This week, the OECD published Health at a Glance 2013, which showed that during 2011 Ireland had one of the highest rates of hospital admission for COPD, second only to Hungary. That is no coincidence.
“In order to improve the treatment pathways for COPD, the HSE has developed a COPD programme, which is designed to deliver earlier and more accurate diagnosis and to reduce the number of deaths from COPD by 50 a year. So far the Programme has resulted in fewer patients with COPD going to hospital and, when they do, they are now spending 1.5 fewer days less there and demonstrate clear improvements in their quality of life.
“However, if we really want to improve the incidents of COPD in Ireland, the most effective way to combat it is to tackle what causes it; smoking. The Government has introduced a range of measures to combat smoking and to make Ireland a smoke free zone. They include the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products; banning smoking on primary and secondary campuses and child care facilities; promoting tobacco free playgrounds, parks and beaches in conjunction with local authorities; and educational initiatives to warn about the dangers of smoking.
“If we all work together we can prevent the needless deaths caused by COPD. Raising awareness of the condition is the first step.”