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Why we got involved in Life of Breath – The Patient Prospective

Both of us have suffered from respiratory illnesses, of various types and severity, and the resultant complications (such as heavily scarred lungs and damaged ‘pipes’) and reactions to long term medication (osteoporosis and neuropathic damage) all our lives. We feel strongly that respiratory illness is generally ignored by Government (despite the very high cost to NHS), and in consequence little understood be the public. There is no understanding of ‘Life of Breath’, by it through situations like our own, or the shock of a healthy person suddenly inflicted with finding it a ‘challenge’ just to breathe.

One in every 5 people in the UK struggle in some way to breathe. Only seven other European countries have worse death rates from respiratory disease than the UK; five of these are former Soviet Union countries. Respiratory disease costs the NHS and society £6.6 billion: £3 billion in costs to the care system, £1.9 billion in mortality costs and £1.7 billion in illness costs. These cases take up more than one million bed days in England. An estimated 24 million consultations with GPs, and 62 million prescriptions were used in the treatment of respiratory disease.

The most commonly reported long-term illnesses in children and babies are conditions of the respiratory system. About a fifth of children (21%) and 15% of adults have a diagnosis of asthma, and there are strong signs that this is increasing fast, presumably through pollution.

Occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos fibres) are increasing. There is evidence to note the relationship between social inequality and lung disease with a higher proportion of deaths in respiratory disease than any other disease area: Almost a half of all deaths (44%) are associated with social class inequalities compared with 28% of deaths from ischemic heart disease. Furthermore, men aged 20-64 employed in unskilled manual occupations are around 14 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and nine times more likely to die from tuberculosis than men in professional roles.

We believe that those who face the ‘Life of Breath’ as a challenge on a daily basis, need greatly increased understanding through research and government (public) awareness for those of the future.