April 26, 2007
Tackling Lung Disease: Building Canada's First-Ever Lung Health Action Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Ottawa) – The Lung Association, together with the Government of Canada and stakeholders nationwide, today opened the National Lung Health Framework: Plan for Action, a meeting of medical and scientific experts to begin building Canada's first-ever action plan to combat respiratory disease.
Six million Canadians – one in every five – suffers from some form of lung disease, costing the Canadian economy $15 billion in direct costs to the health care system and indirect costs in terms of lost productivity. Additionally, every 20 minutes one Canadian dies from lung disease. This sobering reality has spurred partners – government, The Lung Association, health stakeholders and others – to take action to address what has been identified as one of the top five costs for the health care system.
"Canada is an international leader in lung health and The Action Plan will only serve to strengthen our efforts," said Nora Sobolov, Chair of the Lung Health Framework Steering Committee, "This is a groundbreaking moment for lung health in Canada. Working together, the leaders in the lung health community will develop an action plan to significantly decrease rates of respiratory disease in this country".
Over the course of the next year, a comprehensive approach to improving the lung health of Canadians will be developed. It will be built on information sharing, better detection and management of lung disease, integration of existing systems of support, and developing proactive approaches to dealing with incidence of chronic and infectious lung disease, the detrimental effects of big tobacco on the lung health of Canadians, and, the environmental contributors to lung disease such as air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Framework process is guided by the work of four Working Groups dealing with Chronic Disease, Tobacco, Infectious Diseases and the Environment. All of these areas have been identified as key factors that must be addressed in order to improve the lung health of Canadians.
"Canada has one of the highest incidence rates of asthma in the world," said Dr. Gerard Cox, Co- Chair of the Chronic Disease Working Group for the Lung Health Framework, "It is a leading cause of emergency room visits by children, remains a cause of sudden death in young adults, and with almost 3 million Canadians suffering from asthma the need for action on this chronic illness – and others – is vital".
"A great deal has been achieved in lowering rates of tobacco use among all demographics across Canada," said Paul Thomey, Chair of the Tobacco Working Group, "However, a coordinated approach is needed to decrease the prevalence of smoking – and its harmful effects – in at-risk communities such as among Aboriginal peoples and the mental health population. Additionally, a continued focus on youth and early detection efforts is key to achieving a long-term goal of reducing smoking rates to less than 10%".
"Infectious lung disease such as influenza, tuberculosis and pneumonia, remain threats to the health and well-being of Canadians across the country," added Dr. Malcolm King, Chair of the Infectious Disease Working Group, "These diseases are prevalent in all communities but are most notable among those who are at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. To that end, dealing with incidences of poverty and shelter as it relates to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as immigrants and refugees, is a necessary step to addressing some of the factors influencing infectious lung disease in their communities. It is just not acceptable that in the 21st century, that the majority of tuberculosis cases either come from abroad or find a way in to the homes of Aboriginal people".
"Exposure to indoor or outdoor air pollutants worsens symptoms for people who suffer from asthma or COPD. In some cases, these substances can cause asthma or, more rarely, cancer", said Kenneth Maybee, Chair of the Environmental Working Group. "Environmental issues connect with every aspect of respiratory health; it is critical to develop comprehensive strategies that reduce exposure to air pollutants, that increase awareness of the connections between climate change and air pollution, and which take action to reduce greenhouse gases."
The Lung Health Framework is an ambitious multi-year process that began in 2006 to build a 'Made in Canada' Lung Health Action Plan developed by and for a wide range of stakeholders towards significant and far-reaching improvements to respiratory health in Canada. Once implemented, the collaborative approach to the prevention and management of respiratory diseases will result in decreased rates of lung disease, shorter wait times and better environmental-health policy so that Canadians can breathe easier.
The Lung Association, in collaboration with the Framework Steering Committee and the Public Health Agency of Canada, is leading the process that brings together the talent and expertise of many key stakeholders.
Over 175 individual stakeholders have gathered in Ottawa for the two-day working meeting that is taking place from April 26 and 27. Stakeholders represent experts from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, health, environment, patient and consumer groups, the voluntary sector, Aboriginal organizations, industry and the private sector, clinical practitioners, research and academics.
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Director of Communications and Government Affairs
The Lung Association
Phone: 613-569-6411, ext. 223