Wheeze wave

The UK reels under the burden of respiratory ailments

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

respiratory diseases have been found to be a major cause of death in the uk and experts warn that the British government will have to seriously rework its priorities to be able to fight the menace. Ailments like lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (copd) kill 105 per 100,000 people in the country. This rate is twice the eu's average.

These disturbing facts have been revealed in The European Lung White Book, a survey on respiratory health in Europe, released by the European Respiratory Society (ers) on April 27, 2004. The study predicts that " copd, the fifth leading cause of death worldwide, is likely to account for over six million deaths worldwide by 2010, becoming the third leading cause of death."

"The uk has 5.1 million people suffering from asthma, the highest mortality rates from pneumonia and the second highest death rate from lung cancer in Europe," it says. The death rate from lung cancer, at 66 per 100,000 people, exceeds the European average of 45.9 per 100,000. But despite this alarming situation, these diseases continue to be ignored by the government, which attaches more importance to heart diseases and cancer, alleges Walter McNicholas, president of ers.

This, despite the fact that these disorders cost the National Health Service (nhs) more than any other type of disease. They incur production losses estimated at us $5,664 million per year. According to the country's department of social security, 28 million working days were lost due to these diseases in 2000. "The results are shocking. Britain has been left wheezing at the bottom of the European lung heath league for many years. Respiratory disease is not being given the national priority it warrants from the huge burden it imposes on both patients and nhs, " rues Edmund Neville, chairperson, British Thoracic Society.

The report includes epidemiological data on respiratory disorders from all European countries. It says Europe spends nearly us $121 billion on the treatment of these diseases annually. It points out that the death rate from these diseases is also high in other countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Ireland and Uzbekistan.

While surveys like this raise concern about respiratory diseases, India still lacks large-scale epidemiological studies in the area. However, according to a 2000 report of the World Health Organisation, 65 million cases of respiratory diseases were reported in the country in 1998, representing 6.6 per cent of the total population.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.