Data from report: “The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease” –  Second Edition by Forum of International Respiratory Societies

Respiratory diseases are leading causes of death and disability in the world.

About 65 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 3 million die from it each year, making it the third leading cause of death worldwide.

About 334 million people suffer from asthma, the most common chronic disease of childhood affecting 14% of all children globally. Pneumonia kills millions of people annually and is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years old. Over 10 million people develop tuberculosis (TB) and 1.4 million die from it each year, making it the most common lethal infectious disease.

Lung cancer kills 1.6 million people each year and is the most deadly cancer. Globally, 4 million people die prematurely from chronic respiratory disease. At least 2 billion people are exposed to indoor toxic smoke, 1 billion inhale outdoor pollutant air and 1 billion are exposed to tobacco smoke.

The truth is that many of us are naïve to these stark realities. Fortunately, most respiratory  diseases are preventable by improving the quality of the air.

Common sources of unhealthy air are tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and air containing microbes, toxic particles, fumes or allergens. Reducing tobacco consumption is the most important first step.

Controlling unhealthy air in the workplace can prevent occupational lung disease. Strengthening immunisation programmes can prevent many types of pneumonia. Improving respiratory health also entails strengthening healthcare systems, using established guidelines for health promotion and disease prevention, training medical personnel, research, and educating the populace.

Prevention, control and cure of these diseases and promotion of respiratory health must be a top priority in global decision-making in the health sector.

These goals are achievable, and the control, prevention and cure of respiratory  diseases are among the most important costeffective health interventions available.