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Addressing the Urgency of Lung Disease in Canada through Policy Change

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reps from lung health foundation
Representatives from the Lung Health Foundation host federal advocacy day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Delays in diagnosis, rising health-care costs, and stigma underscore the need for a comprehensive approach to lung disease.

Lung disease continues to have a dramatic impact on the health of Canadians. One in five is affected by serious lung disease, and it’s an immediate problem for the country. Contributing to the issue is the stigma around lung cancer attached to the myth that only smokers get lung cancer. In fact, approximately 30 per cent of cases occur in those who have never smoked.

The Lung Health Foundation (LHF) is leading the way in helping Canadians improve their understanding of lung disease. Lung cancer alone has claimed the lives of many — 80 per cent within five years of being diagnosed. In 2022, more than 20,000 people will die from it. Contributing to this poor outcome is the persistent stigma — one that contributes to a lack of screening, delayed diagnosis and treatment, and increased mortality for those with the disease.

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Thought leaders gather to create change

To address the devastating consequences of lung disease, involvement from a range of stakeholders is needed. In mid-November, as LHF marked Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it hosted a federal advocacy day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It brought together staff, volunteers, and patient advocates from across the country to meet with ministers, members of Parliament, and senators.

The goal was to support the development of more comprehensive policies that will not only save lives but lessen the financial impact on health care by improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of lung disease. It puts a profound burden on patients, families, and every provincial health-care system. It’s estimated that the direct and indirect cost of treating asthma will be $4 billion by 2030.

The initiative is just one of many from LHF. Its annual Stop Asking the Wrong Question campaign was developed to empower those diagnosed with the lung disease and encourage Canadians to offer their support, not judgment. Each day, 82 people will hear the news that they have lung cancer.

LHF’s focus on advocacy work is expansive. It’s driving policy change in numerous areas, from inequities in lung disease outcomes, to building a national companion diagnostics framework to improve survival and quality of life for patients. The organization’s critical work is aimed at challenging the status quo of lung disease.

A multi-faceted approach to creating change

Each year, Canadian families will continue to needlessly lose a loved one to asthma, tens of thousands with COPD will be hospitalized, and many young people will continue to smoke and vape, putting their health at serious risk. In Canada, lung cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer. Moreover, it continues to be the leading cause of cancer death in Canada.

LHF is dedicated to ending health-care gaps around lung disease suffered by more than 7.5 million Canadians. It takes a multi-faceted approach — championing ground-breaking research and offering programs and support needed for patients and their families. Add to the mix efforts focused on policy and practice change, education, and awareness.

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