Spotlight on the fourth leading cause of death in New Zealand
World COPD Day is an annual global event and is taking place today on 16 November 2016, in order to raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in New Zealand after ischaemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The disease is often undiagnosed, and for this reason at least 200,000 (or 15%) of the New Zealand adult population may be affected.
Before Pauline Mohi from Christchurch was diagnosed, she describes her symptoms as being “Absolute shortness of breath and constant coughing. I thought the breathlessness was part of growing old. I had also tried every cough medicine in the chemist but none of them worked on my cough.”
The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ advises Kiwis particularly over the age of 35 to check in with their lungs on World COPD Day, by using the following checklist. Do you:
Your lung health could be at risk particularly if you:
- Have a new, persistent or changed cough?
- Cough up mucus, phlegm or blood?
- Get breathless more easily than others your age?
- Experience chest tightness or wheeze?
- Have frequent chest infections?
- Experience chest pain, fatigue or sudden weight loss?
If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, please speak with your doctor about your symptoms.
- Smoke or have ever smoked.
- Work or worked in a job that exposed you to dust, gas or fumes.
COPD is an umbrella term for progressive lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma and emphysema. It means the airways in the lungs are obstructed and lung tissue may be damaged, which causes difficulty breathing. The main cause of COPD in New Zealand is tobacco smoking.
The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is a not-for-profit organisation committed to those affected by respiratory illness. Free COPD resources are available at asthmaandrespiratory.org.nz.
World COPD Day is organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).
Check in with your lungs: visual checklist
More information about COPD: resources and fact sheets
Credit for the checklist: Lung Foundation Australia
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ contact details:
Phone: 04 495 0097
For more information visit: asthmaandrespiratory.org.nz
The New Zealand Respiratory Conference is taking place in Auckland on 24 & 25 November. If you would like a media pass please contact:
Phone: (09) 214 7440
Conference website: nzrc2016.com
View the full conference programme
Quick COPD facts in New Zealand:
- 28,515 New Zealanders are estimated to be living with severe COPD requiring stays in hospital (Telfar Barnard et al., 2015)
- COPD is often undiagnosed, and for this reason at least 200,000 (or 15%) of the adult population may be affected (Broad & Jackson, 2003)
- between 2000 and 2013 there were no changes in COPD hospitalisation rates, but there was a decline in reported mortality due to COPD (Telfar Barnard et al., 2015)
- a large proportion of COPD deaths are not recorded as such because of misreporting or a co-morbidity (e.g. heart failure or pneumonia) being the final cause of death
- even with under-reporting, COPD is still the fourth leading cause of death after ischaemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer (Broad & Jackson, 2003)
- hospitalisation rates are highest for Māori, at 3.5 times the non-Māori, non-Pacific, non-Asian rate for hospitalisation, and 2.2 times the rate for mortality
- Pacific people’s hospitalisation rates are 2.8 times higher than those of other New Zealanders, though mortality is not significantly different
- COPD hospitalisation rates are 5.1 times higher in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived, and mortality rates are 2.7 times higher
- COPD rates are relatively evenly spread across the country, though mortality in 2011 was above average in Hawkes’ Bay, Lakes and Wairarapa DHBs (Telfar Barnard et al., 2015).