Medical Professionals Demand that China Raise its Awareness of COPD

On Wednesday, medical professionals advocated for raising public awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, one of the most prevalent and fatal chronic respiratory diseases in China, as well as strengthening the capacity of community health workers to screen for and treat the illness.

The symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is typically brought on by smoking or prolonged exposure to air pollution, include fatigue, a persistent cough that occasionally produces phlegm, and difficulty breathing. It is, nevertheless, treatable and preventable.

Wang Chen, the director of the National Center for Respiratory Medicine and a well-known expert on respiratory diseases and critical care, estimates that the disease affects 13.7 percent of Chinese adults over the age of 40 and is the third leading cause of death globally.

Breathing difficulties that are so excruciating that they make a person feel like they’re about to pass away are a common symptom of patients in the medium and late stages of the illness. Because of this, we have also seen a high prevalence of anxiety and depression among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” he stated on Wednesday, the 22nd World COPD Day, at an academic conference hosted by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.

Wang did note that compared to other common chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, the disease’s awareness is notably lacking.

According to a center-led survey, more than 60% of respondents “have no idea of COPD”. Merely 50% of healthcare professionals working in community or rural health clinics possess a basic understanding of the illness.

According to Yang Ting, the center’s deputy director, fewer than 10% of Chinese individuals have undergone a pulmonary function test, despite it being a crucial diagnostic tool for the condition. This finding stems from epidemiological research.

“Moreover, the primary therapy for treating the disease on the grassroots level should be inhaled drugs, but our survey shows that grassroots medical workers most often prescribe antibiotics, cough medicines used to help clear phlegm and even oral corticosteroid medications,” she stated.

According to Yang, the center has launched a number of disease-specific screening and diagnosis initiatives since 2017, serving a population of over 300 million.

“The top priority regarding controlling the disease should be on the grassroots level, and more efforts are needed to step up training for local medical workers on standardized treatment and improving access to proper drugs,” she stated.

Wang also recommended that individuals 40 years of age and older get screened for the condition and have a pulmonary function test performed as part of their routine physical examinations.