Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a respiratory disorder that causes a blockage in air flowing through the lungs, leading to breathing problems. Symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing or wheezing, excess mucus formation, shortness of breath, and difficulty taking a deep breath. These symptoms are caused by the loss of elasticity or disintegration of the airway linings (as seen in emphysema), blocked airways due to heavy mucus production, or narrowing and inflammation of the airways (as seen in chronic bronchitis).
People with COPD are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is a main risk factor for developing COPD. Not smoking or avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke can help to prevent the development of COPD symptoms. The most accessible treatment for COPD among smokers is smoking cessation. Other factors, such as exposure to certain occupational or domestic hazards, such as chemical fumes, vapors, dusts in the workplace or from burning fossil fuels in ill-ventilated homes can also heighten the risk for COPD. Various genetic factors also play a role in how likely one is to develop COPD.
According to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Surveys (BRFSS), approximately 6.5% of Louisiana residents were told by a healthcare professional that they have COPD. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) Tracking Program collects data on the number of hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits due to COPD. Hospitalizations include the number of people admitted to the hospital, whereas ED visits include the number of people treated and released through the ED as well as those admitted to the hospital through ED.
Tracking COPD in Louisiana
These measures were developed following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Standards for Nationally Consistent Data and Measures (NCDMs) within the Environmental Health Tracking Network. The purpose of NCDMs is to ensure compatibility and comparability of data and measures useful for understanding the impact of our environment on our health. The LDH Tracking program collects data on the following measures for both hospitalizations and ED visits with a primary diagnosis of COPD:
- Age-Adjusted Rate (Per 10,000 population)
- Crude Rate
- Total Number