Washington, DC - During a speech today before a national physician's group in Washington D.C., Idaho Senator Mike Crapo announced the founding of the Congressional Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Caucus. The group will be dedicated to furthering awareness of COPD risks and promoting policies that improve the lives of COPD patients. The Caucus, which Crapo will chair, will partner with a broad coalition of physician, patient, and homecare organizations to educate members of Congress on COPD and advocate policies to encourage prevention and early detection. During his speech, given before the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), Crapo pointed out the effects of the disease on individuals and society.
"COPD is a major national health problem that significantly impacts the lives of those diagnosed with the disease, and carries large societal costs," Crapo said. "Those with COPD say it affects every part of their lives, including limiting their ability to work, sleep, and participate in social and physical activities. It is estimated that over 13 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some form of COPD, with millions more undiagnosed. The disease accounts for 8 million office visits and more than 1.5 million emergency room visits every year, and costs over $32 billion dollars in medical expenditures and lost work hours. The Congressional COPD Caucus is a necessary first step to address an important problem."
COPD is an umbrella term used to describe the airflow obstruction that is associated primarily with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is the fourth leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. Deaths from COPD have increased steadily in the past ten years, with the death rate for women surpassing the death rate for men.
Senator Crapo is joined by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas), and Representatives John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) as Co-Chairs of the Caucus. Caucus partner organizations include: ACCP (American College of Chest Physicians), American Association for Homecare, Alpha-1 Association, American Thoracic Society, American Lung Association, and the American Association for Respiratory Care.
The President of the ACCP, Richard S. Irwin, MD, FCCP, said: "For years, the ACCP has recognized the severe impact COPD has on the lives of our adult patients, their families, and the national health system; however, to the general public, it is nearly an unrecognized disease. The ACCP commends Senator Crapo for establishing this much needed COPD Caucus, where members of Congress and medical societies such as the ACCP can work together to address this serious respiratory condition."
Kay Cox, CEO of the American Association for Homecare, commented: "The American Association for Homecare and its members join Senator Crapo in taking every necessary step to ensure that COPD patients are receiving the best of care."
John W. Walsh, President & CEO of the Alpha-1 Foundation, added: "The creation of the Congressional COPD Caucus marks a significant victory in the campaign to expand awareness of a quiet killer. The fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, COPD is a debilitating, costly disease. However, early detection and the development of new therapies can improve health outcomes, save the healthcare system money and help millions of people with COPD live longer, healthier lives. The Congressional COPD Caucus will also help to increase awareness and early detection of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, the most significant genetic risk factor for COPD. On behalf of the Alpha-1 Foundation, we congratulate Senator Crapo for his leadership, vision and commitment in helping fight these two little-known but deadly diseases."
"On behalf of the American Thoracic Society, I congratulate Senator Crapo, Senator Lincoln, and Representatives John Lewis and Cliff Stearns for starting the Congressional COPD Caucus," said Homer A. Boushey, Jr., MD, President of the American Thoracic Society. "Despite being the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD remains largely under diagnosed, under treated, under researched and under appreciated by the America public. The Congressional COPD Caucus will play a valuable role in bringing research, resources and solutions to the devastation caused by COPD."
Crapo proposed the development of a COPD Caucus during the National COPD Conference in November 2003. In September 2003, he introduced a Senate resolution designating November 2003 as COPD Awareness Month. Crapo has become an activist in health awareness issues since he was diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer in January 2000. He has sponsored the Mike Crapo Health Awareness Booths at four regional fairs in Idaho for the last three years. The booths provide early detection tests for prostate and breast cancer along with cholesterol and blood pressure screenings and health promotion information. Crapo is planning another year of the booths in 2004. Crapo also co-chairs the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition.
We hope that all of you send e-mails to your Senators and Congressional Representatives asking them to join this Caucus. Barrett Thornhill in Senator Crapo's office can be contacted for more information.
Mary Burns, RN, BS
Executive Vice President
Pulmonary Research and Education Foundation
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