Before COVID-19, 150,000 Americans were dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) every year, and the pandemic has only worsened this crisis. An estimated 30 million Americans have COPD, and almost half – 12-15 million – do not know they have it. As the nation focuses on getting as many Americans as possible vaccinated against COVID, those with COPD are particularly vulnerable as the disease doubles the risk of COVID-related hospitalization and death.
The Dorney Koppel Foundation, along with the COPD Foundation, the American Respiratory Care Foundation, FCB Health New York, and other concerned organizations have partnered to create “COPD SOS” – a public service campaign that will air on major broadcast and cable networks including ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN throughout Summer 2021. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of COPD and to find the “missing millions”, as well as to encourage them to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
For broadcast journalist Ted Koppel and his wife, COPD activist Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, the campaign and its mission are personal. “My wife, Grace Anne, was diagnosed with very severe COPD in 2001. At the time she was told that her life-expectancy was 3-5 years. As Grace Anne puts it, she’s lived well beyond her ‘use-by’ date. We want to give others with COPD the same hope and opportunity,” said Ted Koppel. “And this mission is more urgent than ever in the face of this pandemic. We partnered around this campaign to accelerate awareness, find those unknowingly living with COPD, and get them vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Another goal of the campaign is to encourage the general public to demand that Congress take COPD seriously and provide appropriate funding for COPD research. “Congress allocated mere pennies per person for COPD research”, noted Koppel. “COPD is the third leading cause of death due to chronic illness in this country, but it ranks 176th in terms of research funding. That is inexcusable!” Grace Anne adds that the only way to change the problem of inadequate funding is for the public to demand action from Congress. “Getting Congress to provide adequate funding for COPD research is a huge barrier to overcome, but it has been overcome by other diseases”. The Koppels believe that if enough people demand action, the barrier of inadequate funding can be overcome for COPD as well.
In addition to airing public service announcements, the COPD-SOS campaign is asking everyone to take specific actions that will go a long way toward raising awareness, identifying the “missing millions” of individuals living with undiagnosed COPD, and demanding that Congress provide adequate funding. The “SOS” part of COPD-SOS is a call for action:
- Self-Assessment – Complete this 8-question self-assessment or send this link to a loved one who may be showing signs of COPD.
- Outreach – Share the COPD-SOS site, so we can work together to find the millions who have COPD but do not yet know it.
- Spending – Help us bring nationwide attention to the community ignored, so they can receive the research funding that they deserve. This campaign is collecting collecting 156,979 signatures—one for every person we lost in 2019 to chronic lower respiratory diseases like COPD—to show Congress that someone’s paying attention. Click here to sign the petition.