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Less than 1% people in Pune’s slums aware of COPD, second leading cause of death in India

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is caused by tobacco smoking and exposure to various air pollutants from indoor, outdoor and occupational sources, said Dr Sundeep Salvi, former director of Chest Research Foundation.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: February 11, 2021 11:45:45 pm
Less than 1% people in Pune's slums aware of COPD, second leading cause of death in IndiaCOPD is a chronic progressive lung disease that affects an estimated 37.8 million people in the country. (Express Photo)

Less than one per cent of 5,428 randomly selected people from 13 urban slums in Pune and seven neighbouring rural villages have heard of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the second leading cause of death and suffering in India accounting for 0.89million deaths every year, a new study has found.

The study indicates that this disease has not received the recognition it deserves and that a majority of people who have heard of COPD don’t even know its full form.

COPD is a chronic progressive lung disease that affects an estimated 37.8 million people in the country. It is caused by tobacco smoking and exposure to various air pollutants from indoor, outdoor and occupational sources, said Dr Sundeep Salvi, former director of Chest Research Foundation, who currently heads the Pulmocare Research and Education (Pure) Foundation and is co-author of the study `COPD awareness in urban slums and rural areas around Pune city’, published in Nature on Thursday.

The study was done in collaboration with the community medicine department at Bharati Vidyapeeth deemed University Medical College.

Of the 6,000 people above the age of 30 years who were approached from 13 urban slums and seven rural villages, 5,420 consented to participate and most of the respondents were women. The level of awareness on COPD was very low, both in urban slums and rural villages. Only 49 of 5,420 (0.9 per cent) of the study participants said they had ever heard the word COPD (0.7 per cent from urban slum population and 1.15 per cent from the rural village residents), according to Deesha Ghorpade, lead author of the study.

Among those who had heard of COPD, 32 (65 per cent) were males, 42 (86 per cent) were never smokers, and seven (14 per cent) were ex-smokers or current smokers. Only two (4 per cent) had been previously diagnosed with COPD. When asked the name of the disease caused by long term tobacco smoking, 41 per cent said they don’t know, 38 per cent named cancer, 16 per cent said asthma and 4 per cent said tuberculosis.

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At least eight such studies have examined the level of COPD awareness in the community, some from English speaking and others from non-English speaking countries. These studies have reported awareness rates of 49 per cent in Turkey, 21 per cent in Japan, 17 per cent in Spain, 8 per cent in France, 17 per cent in Canada, 4 per cent in Brazil, 10 per cent in Germany, and 1 per cent in Korea. India clearly stands out as a country with the lowest level of COPD awareness in the community, Salvi told The Indian Express.

“It is time that the government recognises the need to create awareness about this important lung disease through mass media communication and other innovative strategies,” said Dr Prakash Doke, former Director of Health Services, Maharashtra.

According to the study, underdiagnosis leads to undertreatment, which contributes to a further increase in morbidity and mortality. Although a diagnosis is necessary to reduce death and suffering associated with COPD, prevention of COPD is more important in a resource-poor country like India.

A need for a National COPD Prevention and Control Programme has been expressed, the study authors said.

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