Community Subcontractor Program

NHLBI's COPD Learn More Breathe Better® Program Awards Subcontracts to Advance Outreach and Education

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is expanding our COPD Learn More Breathe Better® program by supporting more organizations committed to the education and understanding of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD.

This year, as part of our community partner subcontractor program, six organizations have been identified for support in raising awareness about COPD, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The organizations will perform education activities that help the public better understand the disease and its risk factors; address the benefits of early detection and treatment; and encourage action. The awards are also aimed at helping further the goals of the COPD National Action Plan.

Nationwide, more than 16 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more have the disease and don't realize it. With the recent release of the COPD National Action Plan, people who care about decreasing the burden of the disease are putting an increased focus on awareness, and through its subcontractor program, NHLBI is supporting those efforts at the state and community levels.

The six organizations receiving support will conduct education activities in their states and bordering communities, including in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. All are experienced in educating populations in their regions about lung disease.

The organizations participating in this year's program are:

This is the fourth time the COPD Learn More Breathe Better program is funding organizations for geographically targeted community-level awareness efforts. COPD Learn More Breathe Better and the NHLBI expect these new groups will continue expanding our capacity to address the burden of COPD at the local level and increase our impact on the ground.

Visit us on Twitter and Facebook for updates and additional information on the community partner subcontractor program. 

Atrium Health
- Community Subcontractor Program

Atrium Health to Harness the Power of Children to Advance COPD Awareness and Education

Children often learn about various diseases and risky health behaviors in school, yet rarely do they learn about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, even though it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Nationwide, more than 16 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, and while in North Carolina, that number stands at approximately 274,000, experts say many more people have it and don’t even know it.

Atrium Health is hoping to help do something about that by tackling the problem locally, right in the greater Charlotte area, home of its headquarters. Thanks to support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better® community subcontractor program, it will enact a multi-generational, awareness program called the Kids COPD Generational Challenge (KCGC).

The Generational Challenge takes a creative approach by teaching children and adolescents about the disease and how their families may be at risk, then encouraging them to introduce the subject of COPD to a parent or grandparent. Not only does the KCGC program create an opportunity for children to influence their family members, but it also makes them aware of their own risks for COPD. The relationships that get nurtured during the program will be captured and shared through images and videos posted on social media, and Atrium Health hopes those images will start a movement.

The overarching goal of the program, though, is to empower people with COPD, their families, and caregivers to recognize the disease while also reducing the burden of COPD—a primary goal of the COPD National Action Plan.  

Dr. Jean Wright, the Chief Innovation Officer at Atrium Health says, “Children and grandchildren are often silent sufferers when COPD occurs in their family. They lose that important face at their games, their plays, their graduations, and other important family gatherings when their loved one can’t be as active as they might like. Why not make the kids aware, and let them spread the message to the older generation? They have an important reason to get the word out about COPD.”

The Challenge specifically wants to help increase awareness of COPD as a serious lung disease, help the public understand that COPD is treatable, encourage people at risk to get a simple breathing test, and urge people to talk to their doctor or health care provider about treatment options. The Challenge, which will start in October 2018, hopes to illustrate the power of targeted, community-level efforts in addressing the issue of COPD, as well as the power of young people to serve as public health advocates.

Breathe New Hampshire
- Community Subcontractor Program

Breathe New Hampshire to Bolster Tobacco-Use Treatment and Enhance Collaboration in Effort to Reduce the Burden of COPD

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, yet in New Hampshire an estimated 18 percent of adults smoke, a rate that surpasses the national average of 17 percent. Nowhere is the toll more evident than among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, as smoking accounts for as many as nine out of ten COPD-related deaths.

Despite a decline in the prevalence of COPD in New Hampshire—6.1 percent to 5.7 percent from 2015 to 2016—the disease continues to significantly impact communities throughout the state. And that is where Breathe New Hampshire, a non-profit organization focused on critical issues related to lung health, aims to make a difference. Through support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® community subcontractor program, breathe new hampshire will join forces with other groups to try to reduce smoking rates through training and education.

Specifically, Breathe New Hampshire will partner with the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program (TPCP), the Foundation for Healthy Communities (FHC), and IDN 4/Network4Health, a collaboration of health organizations in New Hampshire. Together, they will work to develop training content, resources, and toolkits for health care professionals. These trainings, called Tobacco Use Disorder Treatment Trainings, will specifically focus on primary care practices and offer practical approaches to tobacco treatment and counseling around the Greater Manchester area.

The program also will work to increase provider referrals to QuitWorks-NH, a smoking cessation service that links patients to the state’s tobacco treatment services. And it will work to increase community-wide discussion about tobacco treatment, offering patients concrete options to quit using tobacco products. Some 75 percent of COPD cases are caused by smoking, and Breathe New Hampshire’s goal is to help more people stop smoking, ultimately improving health outcomes for patients, while offering a potential, long-term reduction in COPD diagnoses and flare-ups.

Allyssa Thompson, Director of Programs at Breathe New Hampshire shares, “Thanks to a subcontract from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program, Breathe New Hampshire is developing and piloting Tobacco Use Disorder Treatment Provider Trainings in primary care practices around Greater Manchester, with the goal of reducing smoking rates and ultimately the burden of COPD. We look forward to sharing best practices with the other subcontractors around the country.”

Additionally, Breathe New Hampshire will work to formalize and facilitate a COPD collaborative composed of partners across the country committed to the goals of the COPD National Action Plan and improving the quality of life for people with COPD. Breathe New Hampshire’s COPD Collaborative will allow for information sharing among the different partners, creating an environment for shared learning and thinking about how to advance the key tenets of the COPD National Action Plan.

COPD Foundation
- Community Subcontractor Program

The COPD Foundation’s Rural Health Initiative—a Path to Improving the Quality of COPD Care in Rural Tennessee

It’s an unhappy truth: When it comes to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, rural Americans bear a disproportionate burden, as they are twice as likely to suffer with the debilitating lung disease as those living in metropolitan areas. Yet, while rural Americans represent 20 percent of the U.S. population—that’s 60 million people—only 11 percent of doctors practice in their communities. That means many must rely on physician assistants or nurses for their primary care.

One problem: many of these professionals, doctors included, lack the specific training and education needed to offer enhanced care for people at risk for or diagnosed with COPD.

The COPD Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established to expand services and improve the lives of those living with COPD, aims to provide the type of training that can improve the understanding of COPD among these rural health care professionals. Under a rural health initiative called TOUCH (Teaching and Outreach in Underserved Communities and Health Improvement) COPD, the foundation will provide training opportunities to help professionals recognize COPD symptoms early and give real-life practice skills needed to effectively treat people with the disease.

With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® community subcontractor program, the COPD Foundation will focus the initiative’s efforts in Tennessee, a state with a significant rural population, and where nearly 479,000 have been diagnosed with the disease.

TOUCH COPD will have three components. First, the COPD Foundation will implement a train-the-trainer program in Middle Tennessee to teach primary care physicians, skilled nursing professionals, homecare workers, and pharmacists about a variety of topics related to COPD. In turn, the participants will teach other health care providers in the area. The program includes two webinars about properly diagnosing COPD, along with a workshop that allows the providers to apply what they know about COPD diagnosis, treatment, and management to practical situations. As this program grows into a sustainable project, it will engage even more providers, refine the webinars and workshops as needed, and create new training materials. The goal, ultimately, is to develop a large community of professionals that can learn from each other and share best practices as they care for people with COPD.

In addition to these trainings, the COPD Foundation will equip participants with tools and materials to use and disseminate during their education and outreach efforts. The foundation will use NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program materials in conjunction with the organization’s own resources, all of which focus on COPD basics, identifying symptoms, and treatment strategies.

Finally, the TOUCH COPD program will partner with the Saint Thomas Health system in Tennessee to provide COPD awareness and education at TOUCH COPD’s outreach events. This partnership provides a unique opportunity for TOUCH COPD to educate people at the events and direct those believed to be at risk to the Saint Thomas physician booth for follow up.

“We appreciate this opportunity to produce a program that will provide needed support to those communities that have high COPD rates and limited access to resources,” said Corinne Costa Davis, chief executive officer of the COPD Foundation.

The TOUCH COPD program closely aligns with the COPD National Action Plan as well as the NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program, which aims to empower people with COPD, along with their families and caregivers, while ultimately improving the quality of their care.

Respiratory Health Association
- Community Subcontractor Program

Respiratory Health Association Works to Empower COPD Caregivers

While attention has been paid to the medical and support needs of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), less time has been devoted to considering and addressing the needs of their informal caregivers. In many cases, COPD caregivers are family members who possess strong emotional and personal connections with the persons living with COPD, but who typically lack medical training on how to best support their loved ones.

One study shows that 70 percent of COPD patients have one or more informal caregivers. Because of the informal nature of their role, caregivers are often under-prepared for the range of challenges of tending to the family member or friend with COPD. A study on COPD caregivers’ burden found that 35 percent of informal COPD caregivers report having health-related problems due to their caregiving role.

Respiratory Health Association, a public health leader in Illinois since 1906, has found a way to lighten the load by developing the COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit, a resource designed to empower COPD caregivers with information and effective strategies that can be used at every stage of the caregivers’ journey. The toolkit comes with customized, accessible information about what COPD is, along with guidance on some of the most common concerns caregivers may face, such as how to manage a home for someone living with COPD, how to prepare for visits with a health care provider, how to help after a COPD flare-up or hospital stay, and how to engage in healthy self-care. 

With support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® community subcontractor program, Respiratory Health Association will work with select pulmonary rehabilitation facilities in urban and rural Illinois, as well as Midwest health care providers, to disseminate the COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit. The focus mainly will be in states where COPD rates are among the highest in the country, such as Ohio and Michigan.

To develop the toolkit, Respiratory Health Association conducted interviews with health care providers working in pulmonary rehabilitation, people living with COPD, and COPD caregivers themselves. This information helped inform the kind of support and resources the caregivers needed, and the result is a user-friendly tool grounded in COPD clinical guidelines. (The toolkit has not been reviewed by the NHLBI.)

Following distribution of the toolkit, Respiratory Health Association will conduct focus groups and perform other evaluation activities with COPD caregivers to assess the usability and impact of the toolkits. The Association hopes this approach will offer key insights that will inform expansion of the program in valuable and sustainable ways.

“Thank you to NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program for recognizing the important role of COPD caregivers in caring for people living with COPD,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “This funding will allow us to disseminate needed COPD caregiver resources in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.”

While working to improve both patient and caregiver outcomes, Respiratory Health Association will also align its efforts to the COPD National Action Plan. The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit provides an opportunity to empower COPD caregivers while working to improve the quality of care for those living with COPD. Those efforts include improving diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of the disease.

South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative
- Community Subcontractor Program

South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative Targets Rural Health Clinics for COPD Education and Care Program 

If you live in a rural area in the United States, you’re twice as likely as an urban dweller to be diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and the main reason is simple: lack of easy access to health care.

Residents in rural areas often live dozens of miles from health care resources and facilities, and that creates especially onerous challenges for those with COPD, who often need frequent care. The problem can be even more devastating for the many who don’t even know they have COPD, as they delay getting diagnosed until their symptoms become so severe they need aggressive treatment or hospitalization.

In South Carolina, where some 274,000 residents have been diagnosed with the disease—most of them from rural areas—these challenges are all too common. They are, in part, why COPD has become the third leading cause of death in the state.

But the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative (SCFTC) is hoping to do something about it. With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® program, SCFTC will place rural health clinics at the forefront of COPD education and care efforts by supplying them with custom, information-packed “change packages.” The idea is offer information and guidance that can help create consistency in care, ultimately improving the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of COPD.

Because smoking is the leading cause of COPD, the change package will come with tobacco intervention materials and tools to help at-risk individuals quit smoking. The rural health clinics will also be able to direct people to the South Carolina Tobacco Quitline for extra support. NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program materials will supplement these elements of the change package, and SCTFC will partner with local tobacco coalitions that can serve as training resources for the clinics.

To assess the program and its effectiveness, SFTFC will conduct surveys before and after the program to evaluate changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior among the rural clinic providers as well as shifts in patient outcomes. The Collaborative will then evaluate how those changes sync up with the COPD Learn More Breathe Better program goals and guidelines for the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of COPD.

“The South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative is pleased to be selected as a subcontractor for the NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program,” says Colleen Campbell Bozard, interim executive director of the SCFTC. “We look forward to working with our partners and rural health clinics statewide to reach those diagnosed with and at high risk for COPD to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes.”

While the “change package” is focused on health care providers at rural health clinics, the intervention ultimately aims to reduce the COPD burden among those living with the disease, their families, and caregivers. Both of which are goals of the COPD National Action Plan, the first-ever blueprint, requested by Congress with input from the COPD community, for a unified fight against the disease.

Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine
- Community Subcontractor Program

Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine Goes Beyond Health Care Settings to Provide Care

Shortness of breath, chronic coughing, wheezing—these are some of the signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and countless people experience them every day. For the 16 million who already have been diagnosed with the disease, the symptoms are often manageable with the right care. But millions of others continue to suffer, often mistaking COPD signs as natural fallout of aging or being out of shape.

This lack of awareness is what Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) is determined to do something about. With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® community subcontractor program, the medical school is launching an innovative community education plan to help improve care and ultimately reverse the tragic toll of COPD in Michigan. In Kalamazoo alone, more than 5,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, and many more have it and don’t know it. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the state.

WMed wants to show the community that it doesn’t have to be this way. While not curable, COPD is highly treatable, and early detection and diagnosis can lead to an improved quality of life. The key is finding ways to identify people at risk and encourage them not to underreport symptoms or visit their health care provider only when their symptoms have become severe.

The school’s multi-pronged approach is designed to try to do that. A primary aspect of the program is its interprofessional outreach team, comprised of medical students and health care providers in the Kalamazoo area. The outreach team, along with approximately a half-dozen community ambassadors, will immerse itself in respiratory therapy training, then help teach other health care providers — current and future — how to get the word out to the community about the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of COPD.

The outreach team will take a leading role in hosting community events at prominent gathering places, such as churches and libraries, to reach those who may not have easy access to traditional health care settings. The events will help participants understand the risk factors of COPD, how to recognize symptoms and test for potential air flow obstruction, and how previously diagnosed individuals can optimize their treatment regimens.

Additionally, the outreach team will help disseminate NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program materials and resources, perform non-diagnostic spirometry to identify individuals potentially at risk for breathing disorders, evaluate inhaler use techniques, and empower people to obtain more formal care at a local clinic.

“Our project is designed to get information out in a way people can use to look at their symptoms, look at their treatments, and learn how to keep their symptoms under control, so they can live their best lives,” says Mike Hess, chronic lung disease coordinator at WMed.

WMed’s outreach events will be supplemented by a broader local campaign focused on raising awareness about COPD — and specifically, about WMed’s program and its goals.

“Early diagnosis of COPD is critical to optimal management,” explains Hess, “but many in Kalamazoo struggle to connect with the right resources to get that diagnosis, and many more struggle to manage their symptoms appropriately after they are finally diagnosed.”

All WMed activities will contribute to larger goals of the COPD National Action Plan, a comprehensive framework for reducing the burden of COPD.

“WMed looks forward to helping everyone in our city breathe a little easier,” says Hess.