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 National Action Plan

COPD National Action Plan Goals
- COPD National Action Plan

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

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The COPD National Action Plan

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Action Plan At-A-Glance Cover

The COPD National Action Plan At-A-Glance

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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. 


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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.

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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. 

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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 National Action Plan

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 up to 25 percent of people with COPD have never smoked. 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?
- COPD National Action Plan

In the United States, COPD is one of the leading causes of death. Its prevalence in adults 18 years of age and older is 6.5 percent. An estimated 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.

[1] Ford ES, Croft JB, Mannino DM, Wheaton AG, Zhang X, Giles WH. COPD surveillance--United States, 1999-2011. Chest 2013;144:284-305.

Who is at higher risk?
- COPD National Action Plan

COPD is more common than many people realize, and it disproportionally affects some U.S. ethnic groups (American Indian/Alaska Native), women, older adults, and those living in the southern states along the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley.

  • One in five adults in the United States over the age of 45 has COPD.
  • Women are more likely to have COPD than men (6.7 percent vs. 5.2 percent, respectively)
  • Of those diagnosed, 56 percent are women and 44 percent are men)
  • More women die from COPD than men (approximately 70,000 vs. 64,000)
  • Of those diagnosed, 39 percent are current smokers, 36 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. Estimates of how many people have AAT suggest that there are currently 100,000 Americans who are homozygotes for the mutation and have the condition, but only 15,000 have received the diagnosis.

Why is a COPD National Action Plan so important?
- COPD National Action Plan

COPD is a leading cause of death in the United States, and is the fourth leading cause of disability. Some 15 percent of people with a disability have COPD.[2] In 2010, more than $32 billion was spent on COPD-related patient care; and those costs are projected to increase to $49 billion by 2020.[3]  

While death from chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes continue to decline, COPD is the only one of the six leading causes of death that has not seen a similar decline. The nation is finally recognizing COPD as a serious disease that requires intervention from all involved.

[2] Guarascio AJ, Ray SM, Finch CK, Self TH. The clinical and economic burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the USA. ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research : CEOR 2013;5:235-245.

[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.

How was the National Action Plan developed?
- COPD National Action Plan

Following a request from Congress, the NHLBI convened federal partners in 2013 and 2014through 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?
- COPD National Action Plan

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.

What tools are available to promote the National Action Plan to stakeholders, patients, providers, industry, and others working in COPD?
- COPD National Action Plan

A variety of tools are available to promote that COPD National Action Plan including a digital toolkit, fact sheet, video, animations, and social media resources. These can all be found at

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

How will progress and success be measured?
- COPD National Action Plan

The implementation discussions and activities for the COPD National Action Plan have yet to happen.  We expect many will begin soon after the launch of the Action Plan, given the excitement the Plan has generated. Some of these initial activities may involve the development of benchmarks to evaluate outcomes of each goal. Surely a measure of success for the Action Plan will be its use and adoption by partner organizations and states nationwide.

Who should be contacted for more information?
- COPD National Action Plan

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.