Canadian Lung Association

Canadian Lung Association

April 23, 2009 12:00 ET

The Lung Association: Federal Injection of Funds is a 'Shot in the Arm' to Lung Health

Health minister announces $10 million investment in lung health action plan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 23, 2009) - Canada's fight against lung disease took a big step forward today as Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced a federal investment of $10 million towards the National Lung Health Framework - Canada's first-ever action plan on lung health.

"Today's funding means we can launch the action plan on lung health - a plan that will improve access to care, lower wait times and hospitalizations and reduce health care costs," said Nora Sobolov, President and CEO of The Lung Association and Chair of the National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee, "Whether you are a parent of a child with asthma, an individual living with COPD or someone who has trouble breathing on smog days, the National Lung Health Framework is a prescription for better respiratory health that will help you breathe easier".

"This investment is a shot in the arm to Canada's respiratory health community," said Dr. Peter Liu, Scientific Director of the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Six million Canadians - one out of every five - suffer from asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sleep apnea or some other respiratory disease. Canada has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, including 16% among children aged 4 to 11 and 8.3% of Canadians 12 years of age or older. COPD affects 4.8 percent of women and 3.9 percent of men and affects close to twice as many people in Aboriginal communities than the general population. In addition, tuberculosis rates among Aboriginal peoples are more than 25 times higher than those of other people born in Canada.

"This is great news for everyone involved in respiratory health in Canada,"" said Dr. Gerard Cox, Past-President of the Canadian Thoracic Society and a respirologist at the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health in Hamilton, "Over time, under the National Lung Health Framework, it is conceivable that Canadians will see a 50% reduction in emergency room visits for obstructive lung disease due mainly to the implementation of both patient action plans and health educator-led community care for patients with COPD and asthma, However, in order to get to that goal we need continued investment by both governments and health providers".

"Canada needs more respirologists, more lung health research, complete implementation of existing disease guidelines such as pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD and better awareness about the effects of lung disease," said Chris Wigley of COPD Canada Patient Network and a member of the National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee, "The National Lung Health Framework is the first step to making these things happen!"

To tackle the rising incidence of lung disease in Canada, the National Lung Health Framework Action Plan will focus on four priority areas:

- Health Promotion, Awareness and Disease Prevention - keeping Canadians healthy where they live, work and play through education, policy and health care reform and awareness building;

- Disease Detection and Management - focusing on earlier detection of lung disease so Canadians, and their health care providers, can develop effective plans to treat, manage and cure incidence of lung disease so that individuals can enjoy the best quality of life;

- Policy, Partnerships and Community/Systems Support - increasing dialogue among health care providers, policy makers and the general public, to ensure that best practices in respiratory health are replicated across the country while at the same time building the support structures necessary to help patients partner in managing their own health through respiratory self-management plans;

- Knowledge Translation - more funding for innovative research into the causes and exacerbations of lung disease to help find better treatments and cures. The Plan will also emphasize a system of knowledge exchange to allow health practitioners to get the information they need to treat and manage patients properly.

Today's announcement of $10 million in initial funding over three years will allow the National Lung Health Framework action plan to begin work immediately on some critical projects, including:

- Improving Canadians' awareness of prevention, early detection and self-management of lung diseases through public information products, with emphasis on high-risk populations such as children;

- Developing tool kits to assist patients, families and caregivers in the prevention and management of respiratory disease;

- Establishing a knowledge exchange hub (an electronic database) to provide Canadians and health care practitioners with access to the best options and programs designed to help in the management and treatment of respiratory disease;

- Assessing and communicating risks to lung health associated with indoor air quality among on reserve First Nations and Inuit communities.

-For more details on projects to be funded under the $10 million investment, please refer to the attached backgrounder

Since 2006, The Lung Association, the federal government, and respiratory health stakeholders nationwide have been working hard to build The National Lung Health Framework. The plan will improve the respiratory health of all people living in Canada through collaborative and equitable patient care, policy, programming, research and leadership. It is an action plan that recognizes the key link between the environment and lung health, and that will take steps to address both indoor and outdoor air quality issues. It should be noted that the National Lung Health Framework is the first health strategy in the world that tackles both environment and health and is the result of collaboration among dozens of organizations and hundreds of volunteers dedicated to reducing the burden of lung disease in Canada.

Established in 1900, The Canadian Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.

For further information and a link to the National Lung Health Framework Action Plan, visit

What People are saying about a National Action Plan on Lung Health

"Continued commitment to research is the cornerstone to the lung health of Canadians, and Pfizer Canada commends the Government for recognizing this. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but it is also the most preventable. We are proud to support the National Lung Health Framework because it will raise awareness about the issues, advance the development of cures for lung disease and will take steps in the right direction for creating a lung health action plan that responds to the needs of Canadians. We believe it takes more than medication to be truly healthy and we share The Lung Association's goal for advocacy and public awareness efforts in the prevention of chronic respiratory disease and smoking cessation". - Paul Levesque, President, Pfizer Canada.

"The Lung Health Framework will be vital to Inuit because of some recently published startling facts regarding the respiratory health of Inuit in Canada. The Inuit rates of smoking are at 66% compared to 19% amongst all Canadians. Further, lung cancer rates for Inuit are the highest in the world; and, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Inuit tuberculosis rates are 90 times higher than among the non-aboriginal population born in Canada. Some very important outcomes listed in the Lung Health Framework which are relevant to Inuit, but are not limited to Inuit include: addressing lung health issues in an inclusive, holistic, respectful way as well as addressing the disparities in health between Inuit and other Canadians. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) hopes the implementation of the Framework will result in better lung health for Inuit in the near future". -Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"The National Lung Health Framework reflects the importance of identifying issues that are important to Aboriginal Canadians. The Framework has involved an inclusive and welcoming process involving several Aboriginal organizations along the way and is a great model for the planning and development stages for other partner organizations that are in the process of developing their own frameworks and ensuring that the Aboriginal voice is heard throughout the process". - Dr. Malcolm King, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health, National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee Member.

"AstraZeneca Canada is very excited about the potential the National Lung Health Framework Action Plan presents. Developed by stakeholders across the country, this system-wide plan will help address key gaps in the management and treatment of respiratory disease in Canada, ultimately helping patients lead fuller and more productive lives". - Mark Jones, President & CEO, AstraZeneca Canada Inc.

"As a former provincial Minister of Health, I can well appreciate the challenges and opportunities facing our health care system. In my view, the National Lung Health Framework is exactly what Canada needs to move forward in tackling some of the toughest issues surrounding lung health. Education, prevention and innovation are the keys to a 21st century health care system - the National Lung Health Framework will help us get there!" - Dr. Dennis Furlong, former New Brunswick Minister of Health.

"Reducing the incidence, severity and impact of respiratory illness in Canada has been a long-standing priority for GlaxoSmithKline. We could not work to achieve this goal without partnering with groups like the Canadian Lung Association, who have done a tremendous job in advocating for support from the federal government to create the National Lung Health Framework. Collectively, we can now strive to implement the strategies needed to advance respiratory health to the benefit of all those living with lung disease in this country". - Paul Lucas, President and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Inc.

"The National Lung Health Framework will allow us to work with other stakeholders to explore new ways to fight asthma and its triggers such as indoor and outdoor air pollution and second hand smoke. The Framework is a made in Canada solution that will go a long way to helping us lower rates of asthma among all ages!" - Christine Hampson, President, The Asthma Society, National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee Member.

"COPD is one of the leading causes of death and disability in Canada with more than 10,000 Canadians who will die this year alone from this devastating disease - with the National Lung Health Framework we can continue finding new treatment options and therapies designed to help the 3 million people struggling with this debilitating disease. The National Lung Health Framework is good news for patients with COPD - it will accelerate the pace of new discoveries in Canada and ensure that Canadians with this disease receive the best and the most cutting-edge treatment to ensure their health and well-being!" - Dr. Donald Sin, Canadian Research Chair in Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research.

"The right to breathe clean air is something we all must protect. The National Lung Health Framework is something long needed in Canada to help protect this right and to ensure clean air, and in turn, good lung health for all. Clean Air Champions (CAC), a national charity, has been a part of the Framework since its inception and we are proud to play a role in its development. CAC focuses on educating and inspiring Canadians to get active for cleaner air and healthier bodies. Our Champions, national team athletes, Olympians and Paralympians rely on their lungs for their sport careers and are directly impacted by poor air quality. The audiences our Champions reach across Canada are primarily youth - many who are greatly impacted by poor lung health, such as juvenile asthma, that is worsened by poor air quality. The need for the Framework for these and other many other reasons has never been stronger and I am excited to be part of its implementation across Canada". - Deirdre Laframboise, Executive Director, Clean Air Champions, National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee Member.

"The importance of developing key strategies within the National Lung Health Framework to address the critical areas of indoor and outdoor air quality issues cannot be over stated. The incorporation of evidence-based peer-reviewed research studies, along with education, communication, outreach and advocacy, is key in improving the air we breathe for the six million Canadians who suffer from lung disease". - Kenneth Maybee, Chair of Environmental Issues, The Canadian Lung Association.

"The National Lung Health Framework is the first strategy in Canada that will improve the lung health of Canadians. There are many lung health factors and risks that people are not aware of. The Framework will provide Canadians with essential information and tools to increase awareness, knowledge and an understanding of lung health issues so they are aware of the associated risks and can manage and improve their overall health". - Peter MacKenzie, Lung Cancer Canada, National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee Member.

"I believe the National Lung Health Framework will increase the visibility of lung disease. Health care professionals will have improved access to best practice information and resources. As a result, people living with lung conditions and their families will have improved care. They will also have access to more community and facility supports. Lung health is vital to the well-being of every Canadian, after all, "when you can't breathe, nothing else matters." - Cheryl Winger, RN BScN CRE, Past-Chair Canadian Respiratory Health Professionals, Brandon Regional Health Authority.

Media Backgrounder: How the $10-million injection of funds will kick-start The National Lung Health Framework Action Plan


The National Lung Health Framework is a "made in Canada" action plan to improve lung health. The plan will work to:

- Reduce the shortage of respiratory health professionals

- Improve detection and management of lung disease

- Provide better access to information on lung disease treatment for all respiratory health-care professionals across Canada

- Provide more training for all respiratory health-care professionals across Canada

- Increase funding for lung health research

- Improved awareness and education about lung disease


Why we need action on lung health now?

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020 lung disease will be the third leading cause of death in the world. Right now, the impact of lung disease is significant. Today, lung disease:

- affects one in five Canadians (six million)

- is responsible for the majority of emergency room visits

- causes one Canadian to die every 20 minutes

- costs the Canadian economy an estimated $154 billion dollars per year

The Challenge

Because respiratory disease encompasses many illnesses, any attempt to reduce its impact requires the involvement of many different levels of government, agencies and industry players. It is complex and a number of approaches are needed to find and implement a solution. Only a coordinated effort can succeed.

The Solution - A Coordinated Action Plan

The $10-million federal injection of funds over three years will allow the NLHF to begin work immediately on the following critical projects:

Lung Health Awareness

Six million Canadians - one of out of every five -suffer from asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sleep apnea or some other respiratory disease. Because there is a lack of awareness about lung disease, many Canadians end up in the emergency room, gasping for breath. Many of these hospital visits could have been avoided with early detection and treatment. Instead, dealing with lung health issues in emergency rooms places a toll on both their quality of life and the Canadian economy. To improve knowledge and understanding of pressing lung health issues, we will create a National Awareness Campaign on lung health.

- In 2009, we will conduct a baseline needs assessment of current public awareness on lung disease and determine how best to target lung health messages to Canadians. This awareness campaign will lead to education programs that will inform the public of early signs and symptoms of lung disease and encourage Canadians to seek early care to manage and treat their disease.

- By 2011, the knowledge gained from this research will be incorporated into a national, multi-media awareness campaign on lung health and environmental issues as well as a complementary series of awareness campaigns for Aboriginals and new immigrants.

By empowering Canadians to be partners with their health providers in managing their health care needs, we will see earlier detection and diagnoses of lung disease, as well as potential prevention. Ultimately, this will lead to lower emergency room wait times and lower health care expenditures.

Models of Care

There are several innovative models of multi-disciplinary care (i.e. asthma education clinics, COPD pulmonary rehabilitation clinics) that exist across Canada that are community and culturally appropriate. The problem is, even when these models of care are within the same city or region, they are often operating independently so resources cannot be shared, referrals are missed and access is limited across the country.

To improve detection and management of lung disease, we will begin work on a Models of Care compendium project in 2009. This will involve evaluating existing models of care in areas such as:

- Patient self-management

- Pulmonary rehabilitation programs

- Interdisciplinary health care teams

- Co-morbidity initiatives and strategies with heart/cancer

By identifying existing programs and models of care that have the best possible health outcomes, we can use collaboration, tool-kit development and physician/health clinician training to replicate the programs in areas where they do not exist. For example, as part of this project, it will be possible to re-create asthma education clinics (such as a successful model in Windsor, Ontario) in another province where such a service does not presently exist.

Through the use of these models of care, access and services to patients will be improved and information will be shared across the country so that we do not have to re-invent the wheel when helping people living with lung disease.

Better Access to Lung Health Information: Knowledge Exchange Portal

Respiratory health-care professionals need better access to the lung health information to provide a full spectrum of care.

In 2009, we will work to successfully develop an online tool to connect key players in the respiratory health sector. This will allow for improved collaboration among health care providers and provide access to a variety of current research and best practices in respiratory disease. It will also allow for guidelines, programs and resources to be continually updated.

By 2011, we will have a knowledge exchange portal where professionals can share information, collaborate and view current research and best practices within lung health. This tool will allow respiratory health professionals to access the best possible programs and services available on lung health and to receive better training to help them treat their patients.

Health Information and Knowledge Translation

Currently, Canada has some major gaps in lung health information that need to be addressed. The plan will target the following priorities over the next three years:

- real incidence and prevalence of asthma and COPD

- impact of various aspects of patient management

- impact of early detection

- impact of lung disease prevention programs among various populations.

Specialized projects will include:

1. Disseminating treatment guidelines for lung disease
Guidelines are the road map to curing lung disease. They include the best strategies, the best treatments, and the best access to care for individuals to overcome and manage their illness.

Current guidelines for respiratory health include the following disease groups:

- Asthma

- Community-acquired Pneumonia


- Sleep Apnea

- Tuberculosis

Unfortunately, these treatment guidelines for lung disease are not widely used by health practitioners due to poor accessibility.

By 2011, these guidelines will be translated into useable, standardized, tool kits and made available to front-line health workers nationwide. With these guidelines widely used, Canadians will see an impact in how patients are treated, how diseases are prevented, and what tests are needed to ensure early detection. The overall result: reduced visits to emergency rooms and lower rates of hospitalization.

2. Environmental Health

Indoor and outdoor air quality can have both short term and long term adverse effects on the respiratory health of Canadians.

- In 2008, 21,000 Canadians will die from the effects of air pollution, a figure projected to rise to 710,000 by 2031

- Respiratory illness accounted for nearly 40% of hospital admissions associated with exposure to air pollution

Although research on indoor air quality has been conducted that provides evidence linking the effect of poor indoor air quality and increased chronic and infectious respiratory diseases, more information is needed to understand how prolonged exposure to environmental contaminants affects the development and exacerbation of respiratory diseases.

The National Lung Health Framework will develop evidence-based policy and medical recommendations to phase out environmental contaminants; this will result in better air quality, helping Canadians to breathe easier.

3. Addressing the heavy burden of lung disease on Aboriginal peoples

The First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities suffer a disproportionate rate of lung disease:

- 15% of First Nations children and youth under age 12 suffer from asthma. The prevalence of asthma among Metis (15 years and older) is 12%.

- In 2006, the tuberculosis rate for the Inuit population was 114.3 per 100,000 population compared to 5.0 per 100,000 for Canada as a whole.

- Lung cancer rates among Inuit in Canada are the highest in the world;

- COPD mortality for Inuit women is 10 times that of other Canadian women while the rate for Inuit men is 3 times that of other men in the country;

- We know that mould, mildew and the effects of poor housing can exacerbate respiratory disease - yet despite this, 48.5% of First Nations in band housing reported mould or mildew in their home.

Research has shown that there is a direct connection between the social determinants of health, such as housing and poverty and poor health outcomes.

To help overcome these challenges, the National Lung Health Framework will work with key Aboriginal health stakeholders to determine the true rate and burden of lung disease for First Nations, Inuit and Metis in Canada. Once this work has been completed, the data will be available so that we can begin to align health and social priorities to reduce lung disease in these communities.

Contact Information

  • The Canadian Lung Association
    Cameron Bishop
    Director of Government Affairs and Media Relations
    613-569-6411, ext, 223 or 613-294-6158