Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to progressive, incurable lung diseases (e.g., emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, etc.). Symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. The main risk factors for COPD include tobacco smoking, indoor or outdoor air pollution, or exposure to occupational dusts and chemicals.
By 2030 COPD will be the third leading cause of death worldwide. In 2005, approximately 65 million people globally had moderate to severe COPD; 5% of total deaths were directly related to COPD.
COPD increasingly affects those in their prime working years. In the United States, nearly 70% of the 24 million Americans with COPD are under age 65. Employees with COPD use more health care services, are absent from work longer, are disabled longer, and are less productive. The indirect costs of COPD are high and only likely to grow.
Employers can play an important role in COPD prevention. Because a leading cause of COPD globally is tobacco use, companies should encourage employees to quit or avoid using tobacco.
Employers should also consider