Chronic respiratory diseases

Chronic respiratory diseases

WHO/Marko Kokic

Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) are diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension. In addition to tobacco smoke, other risk factors include air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood. CRDs are not curable, however, various forms of treatment that help dilate major air passages and improve shortness of breath can help control symptoms and increase the quality of life for people with the disease. The WHO Global Alliance against CRDs (GARD) has a vision of a world in which all people breathe freely, and focuses in particular on the needs of people with CRDs in low-income and middle-income countries.

World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day

Chronic disease advocacy poster.
WHO/Marko Kokic

16 November 2011 -- World COPD Day is a global effort to expand understanding of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and advocate for better care for patients. Organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, the Day is marked by activities implemented by health care professionals and patient groups throughout the world.

Global status report on noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases are the leading killer today and are on the increase, the WHO Global status report on noncommunicable diseases launched in April 2011 confirms. In 2008, 36.1 million people died from conditions such as heart disease, strokes, chronic lung diseases, cancers and diabetes. Nearly 80% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

UN high-level meeting on NCDs

19-20 September 2011 -- The four main noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) - cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes - kill three in five people worldwide, and cause great socioeconomic harm within all countries, particularly developing nations. The decision by UN General Assembly to convene a high-level meeting on NCDs presents a unique opportunity for the intenational community to take action against the epidemic, save millions of lives and enhance development initiatives.


fact buffet

>3 million people die each year from COPDs, an estimated 6% of all deaths worldwide.


>90%of COPD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.

Fact sheet: COPD

235 million people suffer from asthma, a common disease among children.

Fact sheet: asthma

About the topic

Chronic respiratory diseases are chronic diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. Some of the most common are: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.

About us

The aim of the WHO Chronic Respiratory Diseases Programme is to support Member States in their efforts to reduce the toll of morbidity, disability and premature mortality related to chronic respiratory diseases, and specifically, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Contact us

Ms Laura Sminkey
Communications Officer
Tel.: +41 22 791 4547
Mob.: +41 79 249 3520