Through the Learn More Breathe BetterSM Community Subcontract Program, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides funding to organizations around the country to implement innovative health education initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and supporting the goals of the COPD National Action Plan.
The following organizations have been selected to receive funding to implement the projects described below.
Breathe California seeks to bridge the gaps within the COPD population by developing programs which aim to increase education among the most at-risk patient populations such as current and former smokers, seniors with low-socioeconomic status, and non-English speakers. Breathe California Bay Area will empower people with COPD, their families, and caregivers to recognize and reduce the burden of the disease by increasing the availability of educational resources in diverse languages for these communities. Additionally, their colleagues with Breathe California Golden Gate and Central Coast will work to establish tobacco-free communities, enhance patient support programs, and promote lung disease prevention and interventions in vulnerable populations with health disparities and inequities reaching children to seniors. They will also partner with media agencies to coordinate and conduct campaigns for health education purposes and grassroots advocacy.
An important part of the COPD National Action Plan is for every person living with the disease to have the knowledge, tools, and skills that will support their efforts in COPD self-management and take control of their health. Today, rural COPD care is limited, which leaves people living with COPD in these areas without the proper resources to manage their health. The COPD Foundation’s CIRCLES (Clinicians Improving the Rural COPD Landscape through Education in Self-care goals) project will support rural COPD communities in New Mexico and Colorado and will promote and increase accessibility of their COPD Pocket Consultant Guide mobile application - an app designed to support the treatment and management of COPD among patients, caregivers, and their healthcare providers.
Pulmonary rehabilitation continues to be one of the top recommended health practices for people living with COPD as it provides a safe and supervised environment for patients to be educated on their COPD care. The benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation include decreased fatigue, improved physical activity and reduction of hospitalizations. With rehabilitation programs not active and COPD patients staying home for long periods of time as a result of COVID-19, the Respiratory Health Association will develop Project STRENGTH (Support for Transitioning Rehabilitation and Exercise Now Going To Home). STRENGTH will be the first-ever program of its kind to serve as a resource for people living with COPD who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation and wish to continue outside of the outpatient setting. This program will fulfill the need for simple understandable support resources for people transitioning from outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation to home while increasing the utilization and accessibility of the program in the COPD community.
Through the Learn More Breathe Better's Community Subcontract Program, six organizations received funding in July 2018. These organizations focused on a variety of aspects of prevention and intervention. Activities ranged from COPD education; empowerment of those living with COPD, their family members, and caregivers; trainings for health care providers focused on early detection, diagnosis, and treatment; and improved resources for those at higher risk for the disease. Combined, the efforts reached communities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Starting in July 2018, Atrium Health set out to learn more about kids’ awareness of COPD and the role they play in talking about the disease with their parents and grandparents, who may be at risk. To engage children, Atrium Health hosted events at their local family science museum, located in the Greater Charlotte area in North Carolina, where families and their children could learn about COPD and its risk factors. Student ambassadors at the museum also helped facilitate interactions with a lung display and a spirometer to show kids how COPD can be diagnosed.
In addition to onsite education, Atrium Health invited families to participate in the KIDS4COPD social media challenge by asking them to learn about COPD, post a photo with the hashtag #KIDS4COPD, and talk to their family about the disease. These posts aimed to generate COPD conversations on social media, and over the course of a few months, KIDS4COPD received over 690,000 impressions.
Atrium Health also conducted surveys and focus groups to further understand youth preferences for social media advocacy regarding COPD. These findings inspired the development of a social media toolkit.
Smoking is the number one risk factor for COPD. In New Hampshire, the smoking rate is well above the national average, which is why Breathe New Hampshire focuses their efforts on increasing awareness and education about smoking-related COPD. The organization worked with partners across Greater Manchester to disseminate their Tobacco-Use Disorder toolkit that includes resources to help primary care physicians and nurse care coordinators increase conversations about smoking and lead referrals to the NH Quitline. In addition, Breathe New Hampshire hosted trainings for over 35 health care professionals to share best practices and approaches to help more people stop smoking, ultimately helping them reduce their risk for COPD.
Breathe New Hampshire also organized and led first discussions through the COPD Communication Collaborative, a national platform offering organizations the opportunity to share best practices and key learnings on activities being pursued to achieve the goals of the COPD National Action Plan. To date, the organization has held two webinars focusing on goals one and two of the Action Plan. To learn more, visit the Breathe New Hampshire website.
Physician assistants and nurse practitioners play a vital role in providing care for those living with COPD – particularly in rural areas. The COPD Foundation’s subcontractor program set out to equip health professionals, who may not be specialized in respiratory health, in rural Tennessee, with the knowledge and resources to diagnose and treat people living with the disease. Their pilot initiative, Teaching and Outreach in Underserved Communities and Health Improvement (or TOUCH COPD), provided training opportunities, webinars and workshops to professionals in the state. Through various events, TOUCH COPD offered practical skills to help effectively treat patients. In addition, professionals trained by the TOUCH COPD initiative continued to share their knowledge by training others at their rural health care facilities.
After the pilot program, 67 percent of participants said that the information shared through the TOUCH COPD initiative improved their level of care for COPD patients. About 83 percent said the knowledge improved the level of care in their rural health care facilities. The COPD Foundation plans to continue their discussions with facilities throughout the state to schedule additional trainings and to ultimately increase their reach in rural communities.
While the greatest focus in COPD education and care is on those at risk for or living with the disease, fewer resources exist to address the needs of informal caregivers. A study found that 35 percent of informal COPD caregivers report having health-related problems due to their caregiving role. To better help this often overlooked audience, the Respiratory Health Association developed a COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit, a resource designed to provide informal caregivers a comprehensive overview of what they need to know to care for themselves in addition to their loved ones with COPD. This subcontract helped to disseminate their toolkit to over 200 informal caregivers in the Midwest and to assess its contents and impact.
Findings from their research on usability and usefulness of the toolkit are being used to further refine the resource to address the evolving needs of those impacted by COPD. This is an important step to make sure these individuals have access to information and strategies that can be used at every stage of the caregivers’ journey.
Smoking rates are highest among those living in rural areas, and considering it is the main risk factor for COPD, it should come as no surprise that prevalence of COPD is also higher in rural area compared to urban. With this knowledge, the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative (SCTFC) worked closely with health care providers from rural health clinics across the state to develop and distribute their custom change package. The package supplied health care providers with tobacco intervention materials and tools to help empower their patients to quit smoking and refer them to the state’s tobacco quitline.
In partnership with South Carolina’s Office of Rural Health, the SCTFC also hosted a training attended by 30 health care providers representing 17 rural health clinics. Attendees learned how to use the CDC’s brief tobacco intervention tool and were provided with more information on how the custom change package can ultimately improve COPD outcomes.
COPD is a leading cause of death in Michigan. Over 634,200 people have been diagnosed, and it is likely that more people live with the disease but remain unaware. Because of this, the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) wanted to increase awareness about COPD in their community. During this subcontract, the medical school launched a community education program involving an interdisciplinary team of medical students, respiratory therapists, primary care physicians, and nurses to conduct outreach events throughout Kalamazoo. During the events, the team educated members of the community about a variety of aspects of COPD, including risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and management of the disease. WMed was also able to purchase a portable spirometer so they could demonstrate and conduct spirometry tests and encourage those at risk for COPD to talk to their health care provider.
WMed reached over 300 people with their events, conducted over 50 spirometry tests and 25 inhaler-use assessments over the course of the subcontract. The organization further amplified the reach of their program by developing and launching an eight-week long billboard campaign highlighting the common signs and symptoms of COPD.