According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019 worldwide. Nearly 90% of COPD deaths in those under 70 years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
According to a countrywide survey of Nepal published in 2019, Nepal had the world’s highest age-standardised death rates for COPD, i.e., 182.5 per 100,000 population. The study reported COPD prevalence range of 6.2% to 16.2% in different provinces of Nepal. The study reported that over three million people out of the 28 million population suffer from respiratory problems, but only three percent of those with lung diseases receive proper treatment. The burden of COPD in Nepal extends beyond mortality rates, affecting individuals’ quality of life and placing a substantial economic burden on existing fragile healthcare systems. The symptoms of COPD can be debilitating, leading to decreased mobility, increased healthcare utilisation, and a significant impact on mental health. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a mass campaign to raise awareness of public health measures for the prevention and management of lung diseases.
The Nexus Institute of Research and Innovation (NIRI) has been conducting the #LungHealthAwareness Campaign with financial support from the European Lung Foundation (ELF) and technical support from the Nepal Family Cohort Study (NeFCoS). NIRI has conducted the COPD awareness campaign digitally in light of COPD awareness month by organizing various digital activities. We are collaborating with the Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality to conduct the Lung Health Awareness Program for students, healthcare professionals, and other stakeholders in the Rupandehi district of Nepal.
We have planned to use both physical and digital platforms to conduct the lung health awareness campaign over the months. The campaign structure is shown in the figure below:
Figure 1: NIRI’s #LungHealthAwareness Campaign Structure
NIRI conducted a comprehensive digital campaign titled #COPDAwarenessMonth in light of COPD Awareness month i.e. in November. We focused on educating and spreading awareness about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). A month-long campaign employed various strategies, including the creation of infographics and blog posts in both the native language i.e. Nepali, and English, organising a webinar featuring key health officials, collaborating with stakeholder organisations, debunking myths about COPD with its facts, and engaging the public with quizzes and QnA through our social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Websites.
NIRI content creation for #COPDAwarenessMonth involved the development of visually appealing infographics and in-depth blog posts. These materials covered topics such as the burden of COPD, its risk factors, symptoms, and preventive measures. The use of the native language aimed to bridge communication gaps and ensure maximum understanding. Altogether, we created over 20 infographics and posted them through our social platforms. We got a significant number of engagements on our posts.
Figure 2: Infographics related to COPD
NIRI organised a webinar on COPD, bringing together key stakeholders of lung health. Dr Om Kurmi, a respiratory epidemiologist and Director of the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, was the speaker at the event who presented the burden of COPD in the global and Nepal context. He also shared the public health measures for preventing COPD in the context of Nepal. We invited Dr. Krishna Prasad Poudel, Chief of the Policy, Planning, and Monitoring Division of the Ministry of Health and Population Nepal as a commentator. He highlighted COPD and air pollution as the major public health concerns in Nepal, and there is a need for multisectoral collaboration to prevent COPD. He stated replacing firewood cooking with an electric heater, regular health check-ups, a healthy environment, early diagnosis of diseases, enough health resources, and sound policies and strategies are needed to address the burden of lung diseases in Nepal. Mr. Pratik Khanal, an executive member of the Nepal Public Health Association (NEPHA), moderated the panel.
Mr. Basant Adhikari, Senior Public Health Administrator of the Ministry of Health, Bagmati Province, Nepal, and President of NEPHA, formally welcomed the speakers and the participants. He stated the burden of COPD in Nepal is on an upward trend, and it is urgent to join hands and raise awareness, implement preventive measures, and provide necessary support to those suffering from this disease. He further highlighted that healthy, clean air is a precious gift and our collective responsibility is to protect it. The webinar attracted a diverse audience, including policymakers, professionals, and students. Key highlights of the webinar include:
Figure 3: Webinar on COPD Awareness Month
NIRI took an active role in dispelling common myths associated with COPD by presenting factual information. This aimed to address misconceptions and provide the audience with accurate knowledge about the disease through our social platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and our website.
Figure 4: An example of Debunking myth regarding COPD
As part of the #COPDAwarenss campaign, NIRI encouraged public engagement by soliciting questions from the community about COPD and lung health. The Q&A, known as #AskNIRI, allowed individuals to ask queries and concerns about COPD and lung health, and NIRI’s DrOm Kurmi responded comprehensively to their questions. Further, NIRI engaged with the public with quizzes related to COPD and lung health—a large number of people engaged with NIRI’s quizzes on social platforms.
Figure 5: #AskNIRI and Online Quiz
NIRI’s digital campaign for #COPDAwarenessMonth demonstrated a commitment to raising awareness about COPD in the Nepalese community. Through a multifaceted approach, including informative content creation, collaborative webinars, myth debunking, and interactive Q&A sessions, NIRI effectively engaged the public and key stakeholders. The outcomes suggest a positive impact on understanding and knowledge about COPD, contributing to improved lung health awareness in the target population.
NIRI has planned to organise the lung health awareness program in Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality, Rupandehi district of Lumbini Province of Nepal. This is the municipality where we are collecting the baseline data for the Nepal Family Cohort Study (NeFCoS), a longitudinal family cohort study that is mostly concerned with the management of health adversities and development. We will organise the program in the public school of the municipality.
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