COPD: It’s Shocking

By Guest Blogger – Julie Lautsch, American Lung Association in California

I’m going to start out with some numbers and facts. They are intended to shock you. And from everything that I know about the internet and blogging (which is not many things) one must shock – or one must have a photo of an adorable animal. My preference is a picture of a sloth. But I’m pretty sure I am not allowed to do that here, so let me begin with this:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the 3rd leading cause of death, moving up a slot on the scary, death chart last year.
  • In the US more than 12 million people suffer from COPD.
  • It’s estimated that more than 12 million people additionally remain undiagnosed.
  • Unlike the other leading causes of death that are on the decline (heart disease and cancer), the prevalence of COPD continues to rise, and is a major cause of disability.

I know, I know. Doom and gloom. This is where pictures of adorable animals would come in very handy. But COPD is serious. And, sadly, affects the lives of many people. People you and I know and love.

Now, what does this have to do with tobacco policy and organizing? Quite a lot, actually. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. It is responsible for 80% to 90% of COPD cases. And you know what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prevention is the #1 goal in the American Lung Association in California’s Strategic Plan to Address COPD in California. Reducing Californians’ exposure to tobacco is your mission. So, COPD and tobacco policy and organizing go hand in hand, and the Strategic Plan is an excellent tool for your work.

Goal #2 of the Strategic Plan is where I come in: Quality of Care. One of the jobs I’m tasked with at the American Lung Association in California is serving the needs of those suffering with lung disease, providing direct service programs to improve the quality of the lives of those in need. One recent example of this was the Respiratory Rally held in Sacramento, CA this month (November) in honor of Lung Cancer and COPD Awareness Month. We hosted nearly 70 Sacramento Region residents to a day of learning about COPD and what can be done to live a high quality lifestyle – empowering, encouraging and inspiring them with a program of speakers that included medical doctors, researchers, and respiratory therapists all motivating and educating attendees about COPD. Respiratory Rallies occur across the state all throughout the year, in Orange County, Los Angeles, and Riverside, as well as Sacramento.

Though COPD is a growing public health issue – a big one – the work that you and I do together, makes an impact. Through policy work and tobacco use and disease education, there is a light at the end of this long, dark COPD tunnel. And, hopefully, a slew of adorable animals cheering us on every step of the way.

For more information about COPD related programs or to get involved, click here.



  1. Alexandria Simpson
    Posted Nov 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    This information is certainly shocking; an adorable photo of an animal would definitely have helped, haha ;). I am proud to be working in policy for tobacco control!

  2. Jessie Singer
    Posted Nov 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Now how do we get these future generations to stop smoking? Maybe these COPD individuals can become our advocates! Great article!

  3. Julie Lautsch
    Posted Nov 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    COPD patients would be awesome advocates. They are usually very willing to tell thier stories and tell the next generation not to smoke!

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