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The Global Burden of Lung Disease

  • Chronic respiratory diseases cause approximately 7% of all deaths worldwide and represent 4% of the global burden of disease;
  • Lung diseases afflict people in every country and every socioeconomic group, but take the heaviest toll on the poor, the old, the young and the weak;
  • Deadly synergies exist between diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, influenza and asthma, COPD and lung cancer;
  • Diseases once primarily found in industrialized countries, such as asthma, COPD and lung cancer, are now major problems in low- and middle-income countries and threaten to overwhelm public health services;
  • The cost of lung disease runs to billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and increased health care expenses – to say nothing of diminished and ruined lives;
  • Yet public demand and political commitment remain inadequate to effect significant change.
  • The connection between breath and life is fundamental, yet the evidence shows that lung health is not high on the public health agenda:

    • Tobacco use remains legal, although it kills more than 5 million people each year, including 1.3 million who die of lung cancer, and it affects the health of hundreds of thousands of others who are exposed to its effects secondhand;
    • No new drugs have been developed for tuberculosis in more than 5 decades and the only vaccine is nearly a century old, yet there were more than 9 million new cases in 2007, and this curable disease kills 1.7 million each year;
    • Pneumonia kills more than 2 million children under 5 each year – one child every 15 seconds -- despite the fact that it can be treated effectively and inexpensively;
    • Most of the 250,000 deaths from asthma each year can be attributed to lack of proper treatment.
    • Although it will be the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide by 2020, COPD is frequently not diagnosed;
    • Nearly half of the world’s population lives in or near areas with poor air