The American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society pledge to frame their actions to reduce respiratory health disparities, according to the official joint policy statement released by both organizations.

“Addressing these inequalities is at the core of the missions of our societies,” said ATS President Patricia Finn, MD, who helped draft the policy. The policy notes that significant differences in health between populations “are more common for diseases of the respiratory system than for those of other organ systems because of the environmental influence on breathing and the variation of the environment among different segments of the population.”

ATS and ERS efforts to address health disparities include:

  • Increasing the numbers of under-represented minorities in adult and pediatric pulmonary and critical care medicine in North America.
  • Raising the level of pulmonary specialist education to a uniform, high level across the European Union.
  • Support of programs that educate the public about activities such as smoking and drug-addiction and rare diseases that affect only a portion of the population to improve the access of afflicted individuals to appropriate care.
  • Support of broad access of patients with respiratory disease to specialists and greater access to health care and other national programs designed to reduce health care inequalities.
  • Support of comprehensive tobacco-control strategies at both the state and national level.
  • Advocating for and raising awareness of the importance of clean and safe air and promoting inquiry into the effects of climate change on respiratory health.
  • Developing programs to educate professionals and policy-makers to reduce disparities in respiratory health.
  • Working with the World Health Organization and other societies, agencies, and organizations to eliminate disparities in respiratory health and other noncommunicable diseases.

“Respiratory diseases disproportionately affect socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and certain ethnic groups in both the United States and Europe,” said ATS past president Dean Schraufnagel, MD, the senior deputy editor of the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

“The morbidity and mortality associated with these disparities takes a huge toll, especially on children,” added Schraufnagel, who served as lead author of the writing committee.