COPD National Action Plan

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 16 million Americans and millions more who do not know they have it. COPD can stifle a person’s ability to breathe, lead to long-term disability, and dramatically affect his or her quality of life.

The COPD National Action Plan is the first-ever blueprint for a multi-faceted, unified fight against the disease. Developed at the request of Congress with input from the broad COPD community, it provides a comprehensive framework for action by those affected by the disease and those who care about reducing its burden.

COPD Action Plan Cover

COPD National Action Plan

COPD National Action Plan Goals

Goal 1

Empower people with COPD, their families, and caregivers to recognize and reduce the burden of COPD.

Goal 2

Improve the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of COPD by improving the quality of care delivered across the health care continuum.

Goal 3

Collect, analyze, report, and disseminate COPD-related public health data that drive change and track progress.

Goal 4

Increase and sustain research to better understand the prevention, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and management of COPD.

Goal 5

Translate national policy, educational, and program recommendations into research and public health care actions.

This Action Plan belongs to the entire COPD community. While various stakeholders may be equipped with different levels of resources because of where they work and the organizations and people they serve, all have at least some capacity to contribute to its successful implementation. From health care providers and federal partners to advocacy groups and patients, everybody can and must play a role in supporting and moving this important plan forward.

Publications and Resources
- COPD National Action Plan

COPD Action Plan Cover

The COPD National Action Plan

Ordering information

Action Plan At-A-Glance Cover

The COPD National Action Plan At-A-Glance

Ordering information

Outreach toolkit cover

Outreach Toolkit

This toolkit provides resources to help promote the Action Plan and includes: tips for working with media, talking points, sample newsletter and blog text, and sample social media posts. 


CNAP Fact Sheet Cover

Fact Sheet

Distribute this fact sheet during conferences, professional meetings, community events, at support groups, or in clinical settings to help others learn more about the COPD National Action Plan.

PDF 417 KB


Powerpoint presentation cover

PowerPoint Presentation

Talk about the COPD National Action Plan at meetings, conferences, or during webinars. Feel free to use this in its entirety or pick and choose the slides that are most relevant to your audience. 

Social Media Resources thumbnail

Social Media Resources 

Use these shareable images to promote the National Action Plan and the prevalence of COPD in each state on social media platforms or in articles, newsletters, or websites.


Share these videos and animations on social media or your website to help others learn about COPD, the importance of the National Action Plan, and what goals are most relevant to them.

COPD National Action Plan

Download the COPD National Action Plan.

Panel Discussion to Announce the Release of the COPD National Action Plan

Video recording of a panel discussion that announced the release of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) National Action Plan during the American Thoracic Society annual meeting on May 22, 2017. Dr. Tony Punturieri from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Dr. Byron Thomashow from the COPD Foundation and Henry Moehring from the Alpha-1 Foundation discuss what the COPD National Action Plan means for patients, caregivers, health care providers, researchers and federal organizations.

For Advocates and Nonprofits

For Researchers 

For Health Professionals 

For Patients and Caregivers 

Frequently Asked Questions
- COPD National Action Plan

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. Learn more about this condition and the National Action Plan by reading the frequently asked questions below.

What is COPD?

COPD – short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is a progressive lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. COPD is also known as emphysema, which is a result of permanently damaged air sacs in the lungs, and chronic bronchitis, which is chronic inflammation of the airways. The disease can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms. When left untreated, people with COPD gradually lose their stamina and ability to perform daily activities.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but about 25 percent of people with COPD have never smoked.[1] Other causes of COPD include long-term exposure to lung irritants, including chemicals, dust or fumes in the workplace; secondhand smoke; or other air pollutants. In some people, COPD is caused by a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. People with AAT deficiency can get COPD even if they have never smoked or had long-term exposure to harmful pollutants.

How many people are affected by COPD?

In the United States, COPD is one of the leading causes of death. Its prevalence in adults 18 years of age and older is 6.2 percent[1]. More than 16 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD[1], and millions more are believed to have it but do not know it. Many mistake COPD’s steadily-worsening symptoms—shortness of breath, chronic coughing and wheezing—for problems that naturally come with aging or being out of shape. As a result, many delay seeking a diagnosis.

Who is at higher risk?

COPD in the U.S. is more common than many people realize, and it disproportionally affects certain populations (such as women and older adults) and geographical regions (such as the southern states along the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley) [1].

  • Prevalence is 11.9 percent in American Indian/Alaska Native adult population.
  • Women are more likely than men to have COPD (6.8 percent vs. 5.5 percent, respectively), and more women die each year from COPD than men (approximately 70,000 vs. 64,000).
  • Of those diagnosed, 38 percent are current smokers, 37 percent are former smokers, and 25 percent have never smoked.
    • Genetics can also play a role in the development of COPD, and people with a rare condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency are at an increased risk. An estimated 100,000 Americans are homozygotes for the mutation and have the condition, but only 15,000 are diagnosed.

Why is a COPD National Action Plan so important?

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States[1], and it is the third leading cause of disability.[2] In 2010, COPD-related patient care cost more than $32 billion. Those costs are projected to increase to $49 billion by 2020.[3]  

The nation is finally recognizing COPD as a serious disease that requires intervention from all involved.

How was the National Action Plan developed?

Following a request from Congress, the NHLBI convened federal partners in 2013 and 2014 through trans-governmental workshops and conference calls to discuss the structural and scientific environment for the Action Plan and to establish initial goals the Action Plan was to address.

In early 2016, the NHLBI convened the COPD community for a COPD Town Hall on the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Md. Federal and nonfederal partners, including patients and their families, health care providers, academia, and industry, came together for the two-day meeting and discussed each goal. The comments directly informed the Action Plan, and the engagement of the community remained integral to the Plan, and it helped further refine its five goals. In October 2016, the NHLBI invited the public to review and comment on the draft Action Plan. It carefully considered all feedback before finalizing the COPD National Action Plan and soliciting reviews from other federal agencies.

How will the National Action Plan be used?

Many states have held state COPD summits, formed coalitions, and developed state action plans. It takes tremendous resources to host summits and develop plans—and even more to execute them. The COPD National Action Plan for the first time provides organizations with a unified framework that they can adapt to their specific needs by using it to identify tasks and decide where to concentrate available resources.

The community embracing this National Action Plan believes that everybody with the capacity to contribute to the implementation of this Action Plan will do so in good spirit.  The Action Plan highlights the many opportunities the community can seize to help alleviate the burdens caused by COPD, while turning policy and program recommendations into real action.  Importantly, the Action Plan strongly encourages the COPD community to coordinate efforts so that the critical goals—increasing awareness of COPD and minimizing its burden—are fully achieved. Collaboration is an essential element inherent in the implementation of the Action Plan. Together, we can make a positive and lasting impact on the health of individuals, and on public health in general.

Is funding available for the implementation of the items outlined in the National Action Plan?

Currently, no federal funding is specifically appropriated for the execution of the COPD National Action Plan. Many agencies and organizations are already engaged in activities that support the Action Plan. However, with additional resources, more could be done and perhaps done faster. In addition, more organizations could be engaged if resources were available.

Who should be contacted for more information?

Anyone interested in being part of the national effort to address COPD should visit In addition, a list of organizations already expressing interest and enthusiasm in activities aligned with the goals of the COPD National Action Plan can be found in the plan. If you are served by these organizations in any way, you should feel free to reach out to them directly. 

[1] Wheaton AG, Liu Y, Croft JB, et al. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Smoking Status — United States, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:533–538. DOI: icon

[2] The US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The State of US Health, 1990-2016: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Among US States. JAMA. 2018;319(14):1444–1472. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0158

[3] Ford ES, Murphy LB, Khavjou O, Giles WH, Holt JB, Croft JB. Total and state-specific medical and absenteeism costs of COPD among adults aged ≥ 18 years in the United States for 2010 and projections through 2020. Chest. 2015;147(1):31-45.