Tomorrow (Wednesday 17 November) is World COPD Day. This international day is about raising awareness around Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. For 2021, the theme is "Healthy Lungs - Never More Important".

COPD is a major problem in New Zealand, and statistics from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ’s latest Impact of Respiratory Disease report show that around 15% of adults aged 45 and over live with the condition. That’s 200,000 people, and each year more than 6,600 people are newly diagnosed with COPD.

"COPD disproportionately affects Māori and Pacific peoples," says ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "Māori are nearly four times more likely to be hospitalised with COPD than non-Māori/Pacific/Asian, and Pacific people are nearly three times more likely. What's more, COPD hospitalisation rates are nearly five times greater in the most deprived areas of New Zealand than in the least deprived areas, regardless of ethnicity. It’s a major health equity issue."

In February, the Foundation released New Zealand’s first ever COPD Guidelines. The guidelines were developed by a working group of respiratory health experts led by Dr Stuart Jones from Middlemore Hospital and Professor Bob Hancox from the University of Otago, with the goal of improving diagnosis, and laying out clear recommendations for assessment and management of COPD.

"For too long the diagnosis and management of COPD in Aotearoa New Zealand has been a postcode lottery, says, Dr Jones. "These guidelines with their evidence-based standards of care help to provide a level playing field for all New Zealanders, and as a result, improve the well-being of our people."

Along with the guidelines, ARFNZ produced a popular breathlessness one-page quick reference guide, as a tool to assist people living with COPD. This has been translated into te reo Māori. The ARFNZ site features links to the network of pulmonary rehabilitation groups throughout New Zealand, so COPD sufferers can find a group near them. There is also a Do you have COPD? Quiz on the site for people to take to see if they might have early signs of the disease.

"We work hard to ensure that all Kiwis can access information and resources in a way that works for them," says ARFNZ Research and Education Manager Joanna Turner. "In the last year, we have translated our COPD action plans (self-management plans) into Tongan and Samoan, and they are already available in te reo Māori and Simplified Chinese. This means people in hard-to-reach communities who don’t have English as a first language can get the support they need to manage their condition."

To mark World COPD Day, Dr Stuart Jones will be answering questions from ARFNZ’s audience about COPD in a Facebook video. Visit

Media Coverage

16/11/2021 - NZ Doctor


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