Health Department

COPD: An Independence Priority

COPD: An Independence Priority

Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

January 22, 2013

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. This disease includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma.

In the 2011 Community Health Assessment this disease was identified as the number one health priority within our community. Not only is it Independence’s number one priority, within the state of Missouri, it ranks in the top five.

So, what makes COPD such a high priority topic?

Nationally, the prevalence of COPD has remained stable from 1998 to 2009 and is significantly higher in women than in men. The COPD mortality rate has declined for men over this period of time, but has remained stable for women. The rates for both hospitalizations and deaths due to COPD were slightly higher for Independence than for the state of Missouri as a whole from 1999-2009. Now, you may be wondering, since this is so prevalent in Independence, what causes it?

In the United States, as well as within our community, tobacco use is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD. Anyone who smokes currently, has smoked in the past, or is exposed to secondhand smoke is at higher risk for developing COPD. Breathing related problems, such as asthma and exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace can also contribute. In addition, genetic factors and respiratory infections can also play a role in developing this disease.

Similarly to most other health conditions, the earlier COPD is detected, the better. A simple test can be used to measure pulmonary function and detect COPD in current and former smokers aged 45 years and older and anyone with breathing problems.

Once detected, it is vital that citizens avoid tobacco smoke and remove other air pollutants from the home or workplace. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication. Respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics, if appropriate.

The Independence Health Department is aiding in the combat against COPD by offering Freedom from Smoking cessation classes free for citizens or groups of employees who would like to quit smoking. Each class is offered in a six-week session that meets one night per week for approximately one hour.

Sessions focus on knowing and avoiding your triggers, using positive reinforcement, dealing with stress, understanding and coping with withdrawal symptoms, rewarding yourself and preventing relapse. Emphasis is on long-term freedom from smoking.

For more information on COPD, or to enroll in a Freedom from Smoking class, contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.

*Information provided by the 2011 Community Health Assessment &