As we observe Respiratory Care Week it seems fitting to look at the wide range of issues in lung health. From asthma and lung cancer, to the common cold, what is most clear is that the substance of what we breathe has significant implications for our health. What’s also clear is that from both a cultural and regulatory perspective, where you live also plays a significant role in whether or not your breathable environment is carefully considered.
A recent study conducted by JAMA over nearly 2 decades in the U.S., which included participants in six major metropolitan cities, determined that long-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution was associated with decreased lung function and increased occurrences of emphysema. In China, air pollution is assumed to be the culprit of a sharp rise in incidents of lung cancer. A report in Forbes from 2018 reported that cleaning your house may be as dangerous as smoking cigarettes due to the chemicals emitted.
While lung cancer is the most common cancer around the world, awareness of this, as well as efforts to take risks seriously is also dependent on where you live. In China, for instance, where residents in cities like Beijing face extreme elevations of smog and pollutants, it isn’t uncommon to see swaths of pedestrians wearing respirators and industrial face masks. This is a rare sight in the U.S., even in the cities at most risk.
Asthma, another significant respiratory illness, is one of the most common non-communicable diseases in the world, affecting nearly 340 million people, and is responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths each day according to the 2018 Global Asthma Report. Treatments, including monitoring technology made possible by Fellow wearables and similar devices, along with new medications, are improving outcomes, but all these efforts are in vain if we don’t also take more care to account and solve for the preventable causes of these diseases.
Countries around the world are taking varying measures to promote cleaner air. In Italy, skyscrapers are adorned with trees. Japan instituted a ‘pollution diet’ back in 1970 to combat pollutants and clear its skies. Mexico City has turned its highways into lush vertical gardens. Many countries have adopted clean air and other regulatory policies that encourage clean energy and reduced emissions, and provide incentives to drive less, use less gas, and reduce carbon footprints. These measures, however, are often limited and are almost always disconnected from the larger concerns of health and welfare, and are typically tied to political disputes over global warming.
Until we become truly passionate about health and the human condition, and are committed to prevention as much as we are treating disease, real change is not possible. At Fellow, we are working diligently to treat and innovate solutions, but we are also proud to partner with organizations like Vera Hospitals and Healthcare that are working on prevention, education and quality care solutions. We are also thankful for the many organizations that are working to create healthy environments so we can all breathe more easily.