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Better support for people living with lung disease

Over 700 000 Canadians suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. In addition to having to live with reduced lung capacity leading to shortness of breath, cough and increased mucus production, 20 to 25% of sufferers develop mental health issues, mainly anxiety disorders and depression. Though this particular disease has a significant economic and health cost burden—particularly because patients rely heavily on emergency medical services—there is still little data on the population’s characteristics.

Most COPD patients live in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

To bridge the gap, Gregory Moullec, professor at École de santé publique, Université de Montréal and researcher at CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, conducted a sweeping survey in collaboration with five Montréal hospitals. The findings showed that most COPD patients live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, where the incidences of smoking and mental health issues—two risk factors and consequences of COPD—are higher.

Taking these results into consideration, he teamed up with an urban geographer to pinpoint ways to reduce and prevent cases of COPD and related illnesses. Among the possible solutions, the experts suggest increasing the number of parks in disadvantaged areas to encourage residents to be more active in their daily lives. To ease emergency room overcrowding, they encourage cities to diversify their range of public transit options and provide more options to front-line service providers such as clinics and CLSCs. Indeed, residents in a number of neighborhoods have difficulty accessing healthcare services. When their symptoms become acute, they either head to an emergency room or seek no treatment at all.

Finally, Professor Moullec advocates the creation of support groups in isolated areas and villages to provide community follow up programs for COPD sufferers. He tested the approach and confirmed that such initiatives significantly reduce reliance on emergency services when patients—especially those suffering from mental disorders—are followed closely.