World COPD Day (November 17) is an annual global initiative run by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS).

The goal of World COPD Day is to raise awareness and present new knowledge and therapeutic strategies for COPD worldwide. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a preventable and treatable disease that causes breathlessness, chronic sputum production and cough. There are 300 million current cases of COPD in the world, and it is currently the third leading cause of death globally and highly prevalent in low resource countries.

Exposure to tobacco smoke and other inhaled toxic particles and gases are the main risk factors for COPD, although recent research has identified that suboptimal lung growth before and after birth can also increase the risk of COPD later in life. This year’s theme, “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important” emphasizes that the burden of COPD has not gone away – even during the COVID-19 pandemic, COPD remains a leading cause of death worldwide.

This year’s campaign aims to promote lung health by highlighting the importance of staying active, keeping appointments with health care providers, reducing exposures, maintaining good nutrition, taking medications correctly, getting vaccinated, participating in pulmonary rehabilitation where available, and taking COVID-19 precautions. Initiatives to reduce the burden of COPD are taking place worldwide, including smoking cessation programs, measures to tackle both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as examining childhood disadvantage factors.

Although there is no current cure for COPD, actions to improve quality of life can take place anywhere by a variety of individuals in many types of settings. Employers can strive for safe breathing environments, citizens can be good stewards of air cleanliness, and both patients and families can help advocate for more research and better access to care, including pulmonary rehabilitation and mental health services. In addition, health care providers and policy makers can work together to improve access to spirometry, essential medications and other treatments, including telehealth and other types of health care access for patients in remote settings. FIRS invites everyone to participate in World COPD Day events on Nov. 17, 2021.

Further information about GOLD and World COPD Day can be found at www.goldcopd.org/world-copd-day