Smoking, including second-hand smoking, is the main cause of COPD. This means that for most people, COPD could be prevented by never smoking.

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By stopping smoking, you can slow down the damage to your airways. That is why anyone who smokes will be advised to stop smoking when they are diagnosed with COPD. The course of COPD progression may be slowed if smoking stops, making it very important that people with COPD do not continue to smoke after diagnosis.

A small number of people who develop COPD have never smoked. These people may have chronic asthma or have been exposed to other inhaled pollutants such as industrial dusts in their workplace.

A small number of people may have an inherited genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. This deficiency is the only hereditary risk factor known to contribute to COPD. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a recessive trait most common in those of Northern European origin. People who smoke and have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency will experience accelerated damage to the airways.

Does COPD affect Māori and non-Māori equally?

Māori are much more likely to develop COPD, compared to non-Māori. Hospitalisation rates for Māori with COPD are 3.5 times higher than non-Māori and Māori are more likely to die because of this condition.

These differences are due in part to inequities in housing and access to healthcare, along with higher smoking rates amongst Māori.

As Māori place a great importance on whakawhanaungatanga (culturally meaningful connections), it is very important that medical practices can accommodate Māori by providing culturally appropriate settings.

Worse outcomes and higher smoking exposure mean that it is very important that Māori have access to culturally appropriate stop smoking services.

Useful Resources

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COPD Action Plan

This self-management plan for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is to be completed by healthcare practitioners, together with their patient. These personalised action plans improve quality of life for patients and focus on recognising and treating deteriorating symptoms. Available in English, te reo Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Simplified Chinese