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Notice to Readers: World COPD Day --- November 19, 2008

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a growing global public health problem. According to new projections, COPD is predicted to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 (1). In 2005, COPD was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. To increase global awareness of COPD, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease ( is sponsoring World COPD Day on November 19, 2008.

The World Health Organization recently published Global Surveillance, Prevention and Control of Chronic Respiratory Diseases: a Comprehensive Approach to raise awareness of the substantial impact of chronic respiratory diseases worldwide and to highlight the risk factors and ways to prevent and treat these diseases. Improving global awareness of COPD will require basic epidemiologic data on COPD risk factors, burden, and surveillance. These data currently are lacking for much of the world's population, particularly persons in low- and middle-income countries.

Smoking is the most important recognized cause of COPD. Other causes include exposure to occupational hazards, air pollution, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency (2), and secondhand smoke. All smokers should stop smoking, and all persons should be protected from exposure to secondhand smoke. Many resources are available to help smokers quit. Additional information is available at,, or by telephone, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

COPD is treatable, and early diagnosis is important. Persons at risk for COPD who have cough, sputum production, or shortness of breath should talk with their physicians and be tested for the disease using spirometry, a simple breathing test for assessing lung function (3). Additional information on COPD is available at


  1. World Health Organization. World health statistics 2008. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008. Available at
  2. Pauwels RA, Buist AS, Calverley PM, Jenkins CR, Hurd SS, GOLD Scientific Committee. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NHLBI/WHO Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Workshop summary. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001;163:1256--76.
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD Learn More, Breathe Better Campaign. Available at

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Date last reviewed: 11/13/2008


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