The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease – Second Edition


The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease – Second Edition was released by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) at the World Health Assembly May 25, 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland, calling attention to the global burden of lung disease and the benefits of prevention and clean air.

We often take our breathing and our respiratory health for granted, but respiratory diseases are a leading cause of death and disability in the world. Sixty-five million people suffer from COPD, and 3 million die of it each year, now making it the third leading cause of death worldwide.1,2 Asthma affects 334 million people in the world and is the most common chronic disease of childhood.3 Pneumonia kills millions of people annually and is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years old.4 Over 10 million people develop TB, and 1.4 million die of it each year, making it the most common deadly infectious disease.5 Lung cancer kills 1.6 million people each year and is the most deadly cancer.6 Globally, at least 2 billion people are exposed to indoor toxic smoke, 1 billion inhale outdoor pollutant air, and 1 billion are exposed to tobacco smoke. Many of us, and the world, are naïve to these staggering realities.

The American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST), together with FIRS, is working hard to change these realities. CHEST, and our more than 19,000 members around the world, want a better future, one that has less suffering. We want a future that enables and allows everyone to breathe freely.

The 2017 Global Impact of Respiratory Disease report objectively speaks to these issues and outlines an eight-step action plan to impact these serious concerns. It highlights the importance of prevention, control, and cure of these diseases and announces that promotion of respiratory health must be a top priority for health-care systems and decision-makers. In emphasizing that these goals are achievable, it also highlights the reality that the prevention and cure of respiratory diseases are among the most cost-effective health interventions available – a “best-buy” in the view of the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to reducing so much suffering, investment in respiratory health will pay manifold dividends in longevity, healthy living days, and national economies.

Darcy Marciniuk, MD, FCCP, FRCPC, and Co-Chair of the Report notes, “The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease” report calls attention to the importance of respiratory health in the world. The report and these efforts are required to ensure respiratory health becomes a top priority in global decision-making.”

In addition to focusing attention to the importance of respiratory health in the world and ensuring it becomes a global priority, the 2017 Global Impact of Respiratory Disease report also includes practical information for our members. The report summarizes the current state of our understanding with the “Big 5”: COPD, asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, and TB, as well as with the environment and clean air, sleep-disordered breathing, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary embolism. It highlights key controllable factors, such as a reduction in tobacco smoking and improvement in air quality, which includes reduction in second-hand tobacco smoke, smoke from indoor fire, and unhealthy public and workplace air. The report underlines the value of trained health-care professionals and the need for health-care systems and policies to support those trained professionals. Finally, it emphasizes the reality that investment in respiratory research is more than the hope for today – it is the promise and a genuine commitment for tomorrow. CHEST’s involvement in this important project is only one component of our global engagement and impact. We support and help to educate lung specialists and health-care teams, no matter where they live and work. Our journal CHEST®, and other education offerings, are used every day and in every part of the world. The American College of Chest Physicians® focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chest diseases by providing innovative education and advancing best patient outcomes around the globe.

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) Formed in 2001, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is composed of the leading international respiratory societies, with more than 70,000 members who devote their working lives to respiratory health and disease. The goal of FIRS is to speak with one voice in promoting respiratory health worldwide and to call for action to reduce, prevent, cure, and control the terrible burden of respiratory disease.


1. World Health Organization. Global surveillance, prevention and control of chronic respiratory diseases, a comprehensive approach. 2007.

2. Burney PG, Patel J, Newson R, et al. Global and regional trends in COPD mortality, 1990-2010. Eur Respir J. 2015;45(5):1239-47.

3. International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Global Asthma Report. 2014.

4. World Health Organization. Pneumonia: the forgotten killer of children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2006.

5. World Health Organization. Global Tuberculosis Report 2016. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016.

6. Torre LA, Bray F, Siegel RL, et al. Global cancer statistics, 2012. CA Cancer J Clin. 2015;65(2):87-108.

Next Article: