19/11/2008

Take Simple Steps To Health, Urges Charity

A medical study based in Belfast has shown that people suffering from lung disease can dramatically improve their quality of life by taking simple steps to manage their illness.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease accounts for 28,000 hospital admissions each year in Northern Ireland, at a cost to the Health Service of £47m.

But the research funded by NI Chest, Heart and Stroke discovered that a better understanding of their condition helped people avoid hospital stays and reduced the number of visits to emergency departments.

The research was carried out by Dr Maher Khdour, Dr Joe Kidney and colleagues at the Mater Hospital and Department of Pharmacy, Queen's University.

"We found that COPD patients had a poor understanding of their lung disease and insufficient knowledge both of their medication and of factors that make the condition worse," said Dr Kidney.

Over the 12-month period of the study, one group of patients had access to a management programme for their illness, led by a pharmacist.

Another group simply carried on as normal. The group with access to the management programme had less than half the number of hospital admissions, and exactly half the number of visits to emergency departments. Hospital stays were also much shorter.
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COPD, which is an umbrella term for a range of conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, affects 80,000 people in Northern Ireland and causes 800 deaths each year.

Its symptoms can be managed but not cured. Many sufferers find themselves not only struggling to breathe, but also anxious, isolated and often unable to cope financially. It is important that patients adhere to their prescribed medication but for various reasons - including lack of knowledge - many fail to do so.

NI Chest, Heart and Stroke has established a network of five Respiratory Support Co-ordinators, with the assistance of the Big Lottery Fund, to help COPD sufferers and their families across Northern Ireland. People are referred to the service by their GPs or other health professionals.

The charity's Chief Executive, Andrew Dougal, (pictured) said: "While our support network is there to help people with the day-to-day issues, we also fund research in an attempt to improve lives and find new methods of treatment.

"This study illustrates how simple measures, such as better knowledge and better adherence to medication, can have benefits for everyone. Hospital admissions are one of the most dispiriting aspects of living with COPD.

"If we can reduce them, we not only improve quality of life, but also ease the cost burden on the NHS," he said, noting that World COPD Day is on Wednesday, November 19th.

(BMcC)

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