BREATH Call to Tackle Killer Disease on World COPD Day

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Over one hundred patients, healthcare workers and politicians across the UK and Ireland came together on World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) day (Wednesday 15 November) to launch an integrated project to tackle the killer disease which takes over 600,000 lives in the EU every year.

€7.7m has been awarded by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), responsible for managing the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, for a pioneering cross-border research project designed to better understand and alleviate the impact of this killer lung disease. The project known as ‘BREATH’ (Border and REgions Airways Training Hub), launched in Dundalk, brings together experts from Queen’s University Belfast, the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) and the University of the West of Scotland.

BREATH Lead, Dr Keith Thornbury from Dundalk Institute of Technology said: “The project brings together world-class researchers, scientists and clinicians who will help address the causes, treatment and potential prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

COPD is now the third biggest killer in the UK. Although smoking and air pollution remain the key contributing factors, genetic influences and early life events including infection, poor nutrition and impaired lung growth are now considered important factors responsible for COPD. Urban areas of Northern Ireland, Dundalk and West Scotland are considered ‘hotspots’ where the prevalence of COPD cases is up to 62% higher than the national average and as such, are represented by the regions taking part in this project.

Throughout the five year project, over 30 researchers and doctoral students will work together not only to better understand COPD but to raise awareness of the disease to help encourage preventative measures and timely treatment and disease management.

Professor John Lockhart, Director of the University of the West of Scotland’s Institute of Biomedical and Environmental Health Research (IBEHR), said:

“COPD is a particular problem is the South West of Scotland, to the surprise of many. Together with our Irish partners, BREATH offers a wonderful opportunity to gain new insights into lung disease. By better understanding this often ‘invisible’ killer disease, we hope to develop new and improved treatments – as well as helping prevent COPD by public awareness in the affected regions.  Deaths from respiratory diseases recently exceeded those from coronary heart disease in Scotland for the first time.  Increasingly it is recognised that lung health needs to be made a national priority, as poor public awareness has resulted in an under-prioritisation of this disease.”

The Breath project was mentioned in a Debate on COPD in Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 14th November. For information click here.