Living with chronic lung diseases

Elaine with her two small grandchildren
GOLD/ICC/Douglas Levere

People with chronic lung diseases fight for air while doing simple tasks. They struggle to stay physically active and risk early death. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for diseases that impair lungs and leave people feeling breathless.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are familiar types of COPD. The condition is an under-diagnosed, life-threatening disease that currently affects 64 million people worldwide. Much more than a "smoker's cough," it will become the third leading cause of death by 2030. Tobacco use, indoor and outdoor air pollution and occupational dusts and chemicals are the primary risk factors.

WHO supports Member States as they work to reduce the toll of COPD and coordinates international efforts to improve global respiratory health, particularly in middle- and low-income countries.

Fighting for air

Although Nodari Cherekashvili and Elaine Ackley live in very different parts of the world, they share a common battle to breathe freely. They have learned that the disease is not well known or easily recognized. Yet, as their stories show, they are fighting the condition with healthier lifestyles and access to quality care.

  • Georgia: Nodari Cherekashvili
    After 30 years of smoking, Nodari Cherekashvili's chronic cough and breathlessness nearly ended his social and work life. His condition is improving now, after recently being diagnosed with COPD and enrolled in a pilot health project that includes effective treatment.
  • USA: Elaine L. Ackley
    Elaine Ackley took up smoking to lose weight at 16 years of age. Four decades of tobacco use took an immense toll on her lungs and she was diagnosed with COPD. Today she exercises to improve her quality of life.

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Acknowledgement: Some of the photographs in this feature are contributed by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease/International Coalition on COPD (GOLD/ICC)

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