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Helping Kiwis Catch Their Breath this World COPD Day

To mark World COPD day tomorrow (20 November), Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) announces their plans to introduce New Zealand’s first COPD Guidelines early next year.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is an umbrella term for multiple respiratory conditions such as; emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma.

The COPD guidelines being designed will aid health professionals to deliver consistent COPD care across New Zealand DHBs, by providing simple, practical and evidence-based guidance in both community and emergency department settings.

COPD affects an estimated 15% of all New Zealanders over the age of 40, and is New Zealand’s fourth leading cause of death, however there have been no formal guidelines in place regarding treatment.

Teresa Demetriou who is part of the ARFNZ COPD Guidelines Working Group says, "It is exciting to be part of the very first NZ COPD Guidelines, and have these be reflective of what New Zealand patient’s and clinicians need - something which has been long overdue in the respiratory space."

COPD is often undiagnosed, with many who live with the disease, unaware that they have it. It is estimated that around 200,000 New Zealanders may be affected, with the majority of cases being linked to long-term smoking.

Demetriou says that simply recognising that you have COPD is the first step in effectively managing the condition, with the disease being "woefully underreported and underdiagnosed."

"Many of the symptoms of COPD are the kind of thing that people brush off, but we really can’t afford to," says Demetriou. "These symptoms include persistent coughing, increased phlegm, breathlessness, and frequent respiratory infections."

COPD poses a higher risk for those over the age of 40, who have a history of smoking, or who have worked in environments exposed to dust, gas or fumes. The Foundation recommends that anyone who is experiencing ongoing coughing, increased phlegm or breathlessness, and fits into this category, should visit their doctor and be tested for COPD.

"The Kiwi attitude is very much ‘she’ll be right’, but we need to get better at seeking medical advice when we feel unwell. COPD is not a life sentence, and with the right support, medication, and rehabilitation many can live full and active lives" Demetriou says.

World COPD Day will take place on 20 November 2019. For more information and the latest statistics on COPD in New Zealand, visit

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