Nearly 175,000 West Virginians have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — also known as COPD. But experts believe many more may have the disease without knowing it.
COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is the third leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S.
The American Lung Association in West Virginia has unveiled the new Reaching Rural Providers initiative, which is designed to increase early diagnosis of COPD in rural communities by educating healthcare professionals about the disease.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia is one of seven states with the highest estimates for COPD diagnosis, hospitalizations and death, and our rural communities are harder hit,” said Deborah Brown, chief mission officer for the lung association. “In rural areas, COPD rates are twice as high as the overall population. The good news is that COPD is treatable when diagnosed early. Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of COPD until later stages of the disease, so it is critical for our rural healthcare providers to be educated on the latest symptoms, as well as the newest treatments and medications for the disease.”
The Lung Association’s new Reaching Rural Providers initiative works to increase early diagnosis of COPD in rural communities across the nation.
Resources are available nationwide, but additional focus will be on rural communities in six states with the highest estimates for COPD diagnosis, hospitalizations and death, which include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Providers can access and download the free resources at Lung.org/COPD-rural.