Hitting the Highways and Byways

ramos.jpg (14949 bytes)With National Respiratory Care Week (September 10-16) only a few months away, it is time to start preparing your department/facility’s strategy for promoting the role of respiratory care professionals (RCPs). RC Week is the perfect opportunity to highlight important issues in the respiratory care community.

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) is encouraging RCPs to focus on promoting early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) through routine lung function testing. According to AARC Executive Director Sam Giardano, there are 15 million people in the United States with undiagnosed COPD. With numbers like these, attacking COPD should be at the top of everyone’s list.

COPD costs the health care system roughly $17 billion per year and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Despite these statistics, the public generally knows far more about heart disease and cancer. With the number of asthma and allergy sufferers increasing at an alarming rate, it is vital to inform people about the positive effects of lifestyle changes. Telling asthma and allergy sufferers about the positive effects of proper nutrition and environment should be a top goal during RC Week.

So what is the best way to get the word out? Hit the malls and the schools. Since e-commerce has not yet reduced everyone to shopping online, one of the best ways to interact with the public is still at a shopping center or mall. The AARC is encouraging RCPs to set up “Respiratory-Health Booths” and I think it’s a great idea. Setting up a booth is not expensive, requires just a bit of creativity, and accomplishes a lot of goals.

Your booth could feature spirometry screenings, pulse oximetry and blood pressure testing, and information on smoking cessation programs. Along with respiratory disease statistics and a summary of associated costs, you could include information on respiratory schools.

Shopping center health fairs are a great place to share your profession. Most young people have probably never met an RCP and would be eager to hear about the profession, the schooling involved, and the job satisfaction that comes from helping people recover from respiratory diseases. They can also learn how RCPs improve the quality of life for chronic lung disease patients. The respiratory care profession needs to keep young people interested in the field so that some of the best and brightest minds will set their sights on respiratory care and pulmonary medicine as a career.

Another excellent venue is the schools. Not only is this a good way to promote respiratory care as a career track for junior high and high school students, but it also provides one of the best environments for introducing smoking cessation programs and deterring future smokers. However, instead of having only adults present the statistics and information on the harmful health effects from smoking, allow the students to be active participants in the presentation.

Many teenagers abhor hearing about the evils of smoking when it comes from anyone over the age of 21. However, when presented by their peers, many will sit up and listen. Allow students who have quit smoking to share with others why they gave up smoking and how they were able to kick the habit. Let other students who have never smoked explain why and how they were able to resist the urge and peer pressure.

As for the content of the presentation, market research shows that teenagers are far more likely to give up smoking or never start when they learn about how the tobacco industry has targeted them with ad campaigns geared to kids under 18. Nothing will get the attention of kids faster than letting them know that they are the targets of strategic manipulation by big business. This will be a far more powerful and interesting message than simply telling them how many people die each year from smoking and the health effects associated with tobacco use.

Above all, use RC Week as a way to energize the general population about the respiratory care profession and lung disease. At the same time, you will be energized and have a renewed commitment to this life-saving profession.

    Tony Ramos
    [email protected]