Global efforts must be strengthened to end the preventable burden of pneumonia

    Global efforts must be strengthened to end the preventable burden of pneumonia: The Forum of International Respiratory Societies

    12 November 2021

    On World Pneumonia Day, 12 November, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) calls for urgent and expedited progress to end the preventable burden of pneumonia.

    Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children – claiming the lives of 2.5 million in 2019, including 672,000 children. Boosting efforts to fight pneumonia could avert nearly nine million child deaths from pneumonia and other major diseases by 2030.[1]

    Most pneumonia deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and many are preventable. Exposure to indoor or outdoor air pollution, poor nutrition and lack of vaccination remain major modifiable risk factors for childhood pneumonia. With health facilities struggling with COVID-19, many do not have an adequate supply of oxygen and only 1 in 5 children in low-income countries can access oxygen when they need it [2]. On this World Pneumonia Day, FIRS is asking governments to urgently step-up efforts to strengthen prevention and provide affordable medicines and oxygen to these communities. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic, with almost 241 million cases globally and 4.92 million deaths to date, has highlighted the importance of pneumonia. Furthermore, it has underscored the disproportionate burden of pneumonia, in low- and middle-income countries and particularly in marginalized communities.  Exposed to high levels of air pollution and with poor access to vaccinations and affordable medicines and oxygen therapy, these vulnerable populations carry a huge burden of illness and death.

    To end the preventable burden of pneumonia we must work together to:

    • Raise awareness about pneumonia, the leading killer of young children.
    • Strengthen, accelerate and sustain interventions to prevent and treat pneumonia.
    • Focus on equitable access to, and delivery of, comprehensive pneumonia prevention and control programs.
    • Design strategies to reach vulnerable populations to improve their access to available interventions.

    FIRS calls on governments to:

    • Improve equitable and sustained access to effective pneumonia prevention and control interventions.
    • Strengthen health systems that promptly and effectively deliver strategies to reduce pneumonia deaths, including provision of effective antibiotics and oxygen delivery systems.
    • Increase support for strategies to prevent pneumonia including immunisation with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and COVID-19 vaccines, reducing exposure to tobacco and air pollution, and increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
    • Support research on innovative diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies. https://www.clintonhealthaccess.org/severe-pneumonia-leaves-4-2m-children-desperate-for-oxygen-each-year

    Together, we can end preventable deaths from pneumonia. 

    Media contact Fiona Salter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

    [1] Modelling by Johns Hopkins University, reported by Save the Children, shows that scaling up pneumonia treatment and prevention services can save the lives of 3.2 million children under the age of five. It would also create ‘a ripple effect’ that would prevent 5.7 million extra child deaths from other major childhood diseases at the same time.

    [2] https://www.clintonhealthaccess.org/severe-pneumonia-leaves-4-2m-children-desperate-for-oxygen-each-year

    About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) 

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) 

    The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally. 

    On World Lung Day FIRS calls for global investment in respiratory health

    On World Lung Day FIRS calls for global investment in respiratory health

    Respiratory diseases a leading cause of death worldwide, despite being preventable and economical to treat.

    Embargoed 25 September 2021: Cape Town, Glenview, Lausanne, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Tokyo

    Today, on World Lung Day (WLD), members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) and WLD partner organisations are calling for respiratory health to be a top priority in global decision-making beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

    According to the Global Impact of Respiratory Disease report, launched today, despite cost-effective health interventions being available, respiratory diseases remain a leading cause of death and disability. Nearly 200 million people, or 4% of the world’s population, have COPD and 3.2 million die of it each year, making it the third-leading cause of death worldwide.

    In the context of the current global COVID-19 pandemic it is easy to overlook the lethality and disabling impacts of ongoing respiratory illnesses. For example, even in a ‘normal’ year asthma affects more than 350 million people and is the most common chronic disease of childhood worldwide. Pneumonia kills more than 2.4 million people annually and is a leading cause of death among children younger than five and adults older than 65. More than 10 million people develop TB and 1.4 million die of it each year, making it the most common lethal infectious disease next to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The current COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 4.5 million people, largely  from respiratory causes.

    Lung cancer kills 1.8 million people each year. In addition, there is a need to tackle air pollution, with at least 2.4 billion people exposed to indoor air pollution, and 90% of all people breathing outdoor air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, especially in low- and middle-income countries. More than 1.3 billion people are exposed to tobacco smoke.


    “It is urgent to place acute and chronic respiratory diseases on the high priority list of actions at every level and change the future of respiratory and general health worldwide”, says Mark Cohen, President FIRS 2021-2022.

    “Interventions to prevent and treat respiratory diseases are among the most cost-effective available—a “best-buy” in the view of the WHO. Genuine investment in respiratory health will pay exponential dividends in longevity, healthy living days, and national economies.”

    FIRS calls for these essential actions to reduce the burden of respiratory disease and improve global health:

    • Improve awareness among the public and policy makers that respiratory health is vital to global health and that childhood respiratory disease has long-term negative consequences on adult health.
    • Reduce, and then eliminate, use of all tobacco and smoking products.
    • Adopt and adhere to WHO standards, at a minimum, to reduce ambient, indoor, and occupational air pollution for all countries.
    • Implement universal access to quality health care, including the availability of affordable, quality-assured, essential medicines, oxygen and universal coverage for all effective childhood and adult immunizations including vaccinations for COVID-19.
    • Improve the prevention and early diagnosis of respiratory diseases.
    • Increase education and training of health-care professionals in respiratory disease worldwide.
    • Standardize the monitoring and reporting of respiratory diseases to enable development of better-informed national strategies through WHO and governmental and nongovernmental organizations programs.
    • Boost funding for respiratory research to develop programs, tools, and strategies to better prevent and treat respiratory diseases

    Significant progress on these issues will help to eliminate respiratory diseases from the top 10 leading causes of death in the world.


    About World Lung Day

    World Lung Day is an annual lung health awareness day, occurring yearly on 25 September. To date nearly 200 organisations and many more individuals support WLD through lung heath advocacy and action. This year, with respiratory health firmly in the spotlight, it is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the burden of respiratory disease. To learn more about World Lung Day and download the fact sheet, graphics go to the World Lung Day Toolkit.

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.

    Media contact: Fiona Salter This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

    World No Tobacco Day 2021

    On World No Tobacco Day (31 May, 2021) the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), calls on governments and policymakers to make greater political and financial commitments to support and promote tobacco cessation services.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco use kills more than 8 million people each year. Tobacco use also remains the main and most preventable cause of lung disease among both adults and children, and it is well-understand that the “big five” respiratory diseases (asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia) and other acute lower respiratory tract infections are caused or worsened by tobacco product use and second-hand smoke exposure.

    Despite this, smoking-cessation treatment remains poorly implemented in healthcare around the world; according to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, only 23 countries worldwide offer cessation services that WHO describes as meeting best-practice levels.

    Tobacco and nicotine addiction is not a lifestyle choice, but a chronic relapsing disorder that should be treated accordingly. When nicotine, the psychoactive component of tobacco, is inhaled, it reaches the brain rapidly and is highly addictive. Most smokers want to quit, but evidence has shown that only 3–5 percent of people who attempt to quit without professional medical support succeed after 6 months, highlighting the need for professional assistance when quitting tobacco.

    In support of WHO’s World No Tobacco Day 2021 year-long global campaign to help 100 million people quit tobacco, FIRS urges policymakers and healthcare regulators to act urgently to:

    • Make greater political and financial commitments to support tobacco and nicotine product cessation services that provide evidence-based effective treatments, including behavioural support or motivational interviewing in combination with pharmacotherapy.
    • Optimise health systems by providing system-level tobacco cessation interventions, from primary care to secondary care, community programmes, and internet support.
    • Support the implementation and enforcement of comprehensive tobacco control policies, such as those outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to prevent tobacco product use and protect public health.

    The unprecedented response to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates more than ever the importance and effectiveness of making meaningful policy changes to tackle health challenges. FIRS urges policymakers to act now and help people to quit tobacco for good, protect public health and save lives, and reduce the burden on healthcare systems that is caused by tobacco product use.

    For more information about FIRS please contact Lisa Roscoe: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    World Lung Day 2021 Partners

    WLD logo final large

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) would like to thank all organisations who have pledged to support World Lung Day (WLD).

    WLD falls on 25th September and is a day to rally advocacy for respiratory health and air quality globally. You can see the full list of organisations supporting WLD 2020 below.

    No signed up yet?

    If you would like to support WLD please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    View WLD partner logos below or view the World Lung Day partner list.

    The 2021 World Lung Day toolkit will be available soon. 

    World Asthma Day: 5 May 2021

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Asthma Report, more than 339 million people suffer from asthma, which can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. The WHO estimates that in 2016, 420,000 people died from asthma – 1,150 each day. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to control the disease to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes.

    This year’s World Asthma Day theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions”. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) joins this call to action, to address common widely held myths and misconceptions concerning asthma that prevent people with asthma from enjoying optimal benefit from the major advances in the management of this condition.

    Common misconceptions surrounding asthma include:

    1. Asthma is a childhood disease; individuals will grow out of it as they age.
    2. Asthma is infectious.
    3. Asthma sufferers should not exercise.
    4. Asthma is only controllable with high dose steroids.

    The truth is:

    1. Asthma can occur at any age (in children, adolescents, adults and the elderly).
    2. Asthma is not infectious. However, viral respiratory infections (such as the common cold and the flu) can cause asthma attacks. In children, asthma is frequently associated with allergy, but asthma which starts in adulthood is less often allergy-related.
    3. When asthma is well-controlled, asthma subjects are able to exercise and even perform in top sports.
    4. Asthma is most often controllable with low-dose inhaled steroids.

    This year is the 23rd annual World Asthma Day, an event recognised each May to raise awareness of asthma worldwide.

    World Asthma Day was first held in 1998 and has grown each year to become one of the most important asthma events globally. On World Asthma Day, hundreds of awareness-raising activities will take place in countries all over the world.

    FIRS invites everyone to participate in World Asthma Day events on the 5th May, 2021. Further information about GINA and World Asthma Day can be found at ginasthma.org.

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