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A fresh look at secret killer...

Media release

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of NZ (Inc.)

A fresh look at secret killer…

COPD – sounds more like some new hip-hop group than one of the leading causes of death in New Zealand. The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation wants the government, the public and health professionals to take a fresh look at COPD – New Zealand’s ‘Cinderella Disease.’

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is estimated to affect over 200,000 New Zealanders, yet few of us have heard of it. It is a progressive respiratory disease resulting in a major deterioration in quality of life – destroying the lungs and affecting the rest of the body.

COPD is sometimes referred to as a ‘Cinderella disease’ because it is not talked about openly. COPD often develops from smoking or poorly controlled asthma and a sense of denial delays people from reporting symptoms to their doctor. Therefore, by the time of diagnosis, lung damage is often severe and irreversible, and many patients end up reliant upon 24-hour oxygen for survival.

Jane Patterson, Executive Director of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, is keen for the Foundation to support a new study into the prevalence of this disease which she considers to be on the verge of assuming epidemic proportions.

“The Foundation commissioned local research in 2003 to give us a better idea of the incidence and impact of COPD in New Zealand. The results suggested that COPD may well already be the leading cause of death and disability in New Zealand, yet respiratory conditions still don’t feature on the government’s health priority list.

We are now looking to fund another more substantial research project linked with similar work in Australia – this will give us good solid data for the first time on the level of COPD in New Zealand. We need to demonstrate to the government that early intervention programmes are crucial – all smokers need to be screened starting at age 35 for early signs of this disease.

At just 59, ex-opera singer Rangi Eria from Lower Hutt has the lungs of an old woman. She is a tough lady but she says “My life depends on supportive Whanau and friends. And I am thankful to them, but I didn’t want this for myself. I am still young.”

Frank Wilson of Rotorua has a mobility scooter which he uses to get around. Whenever he sees someone dragging on a cigarette, he stops and points at his oxygen tank and says “give it away before you’re like me.”

Frank gets angry when people shrug their shoulders and say “we’ve all got to die of something.”

“It’s not how you die that matters. It’s what stops you from flaming living that is important. Why throw it all away for one more cigarette?”

For more information on respiratory disease, see or call your local asthma society. To make an automatic $20 donation to the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, please call 0900-4-ASTHMA (0900-4278462).


Background information for Editor

COPD affects an estimated 15% of the adult population over 45 years.

COPD is an irreversible disease that could be largely preventable by avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke.

COPD is ranked 2nd in men and 5th in women with regards to its health impact.

COPD is the 4th leading cause of death after cancer, heart disease and stroke.

COPD is estimated to cost up to $192m in direct health costs each year.

© Scoop Media

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