Your lungs for life | Reducing the burden of COPD on World COPD day 2022

Today, 16 November 2022, is World COPD Day. This day is organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It encourages people to share knowledge, and to promote discussion around the world on how the global burden of COPD can be reduced. 

The theme for this year is to emphasise the importance of maintaining good lung health throughout life – right through from birth to childhood to adulthood. Looking after our lungs is important for overall health and well-being – healthy lungs are essential for living a full and active life.

What is COPD?

COPD is a common preventable  and treatable lung disease. It is caused by chronic inflammation that narrows the airways and reduces lung elasticity. These changes result in reduced airflow in and out of the lungs.  

COPD is caused by prolonged exposure to harmful particles or gases such as  tobacco smoke, indoor air pollution, and occupational dusts, fumes and chemicals – World Health Organisation (WHO)

Key Facts from WHO

  • COPD is the world’s third leading cause of death, accounting for 3.23 million deaths in 2019
  • Nearly 90% of COPD deaths in those under 70 years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC)
  • Early diagnosis and treatment, including smoking cessation support, is needed to slow the progression of symptoms and reduce flare-ups

Signs and symptoms

COPD typically manifests in adulthood, often during the winter months. Patients typically complain of chronic and progressive shortness of breath, coughing, sputum production and tiredness. Wheezing and chest tightness are also possible symptoms. 

COPD is a complicated combination of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.


There is no cure for COPD so the key is prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, as well as protecting vulnerable populations. The WHO recommends the following  actions as key factors in preventing COPD:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Vaccinate against pneumonia, influenza and coronavirus

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapists play an important role in rehabilitation programmes by providing education and developing individualised plans to improve health and reduce the symptoms associated with COPD.  Programmes may differ depending on the individual’s symptoms, but they typically include:

  • Input from the multidisciplinary team 
  • Exercise 
  • Dietary advice 
  • Disease education 
  • Psychological intervention 
  • Behavioural intervention 

What you can do

  • Take time today to learn more about COPD
  • Open discussion with your colleagues about the burden of COPD and strategies for prevention in your area
  • Share your activities with the global community through social media
  • Don’t forget to tag GOLD via Twitter, Facebook or by submitting through the GOLD website
  • Let everyone know how you are recognising World COPD Day where you are!