FirstHealth to conduct COPD outreach

PINEHURST – FirstHealth of the Carolinas, in partnership with the North Carolina American Indian Health Board, has received a $10,000 subcontract from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to conduct programs around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The award is part of the institute’s COPD Learn More, Breathe Better program. FirstHealth will undertake programs in Hoke and Richmond counties to increase health care provider and public awareness of COPD, placing special emphasis on American Indian families and communities in those counties through the Indian health board partnership.

“This subcontract is an exciting opportunity for us,” said Chris Miller, administrative director of FirstHealth Community Health Services. “We are committed to educating the public and raising awareness about COPD, and we are thrilled to get NHLBI’s support for the communities we serve. For this award, we plan to conduct community screenings, health care provider education opportunities and a broader community awareness campaign.”

“We are very happy to be a part of this partnership to address this very serious matter,” added Dr. Ronny Bell, chairman of the North Carolina American Indian Health Board and professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “American Indian people in our state face a number of health challenges and, unfortunately, not much attention is paid to poor lung health.”

The subcontract will allow FirstHealth to focus on a variety of areas including increasing awareness and education of COPD, encouraging action and addressing the benefits of early detection and treatment to slowing the disease while helping many people in Hoke and Richmond counties and the surrounding areas.

Known by other names, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, COPD is a serious lung disease that makes it harder and harder to breathe over time. It causes serious long-term disability and is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The number of people with COPD is continually increasing. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with the disease, and an additional 12 million are likely to have the disease without realizing it. Nearly seven percent of all residents of North Carolina have been told that they have COPD.

A look at specific races in North Carolina found extremely high rates of COPD in the American Indian population, which has a rate of 18 percent as compared to 7 percent in Caucasian Americans and 6 percent in African-Americans.

FirstHealth and the Indian health board will work to improve health care provider and public awareness of COPD, and Learn More, Breathe Better will receive increased support for its program goals. Subcontracts were given to a total of nine applying organizations nationwide. Programs will be completed by October.

The COPD Learn More, Breathe Better program provides educational materials, a website and additional communications tools for organizations on the ground. The program targets the needs of the public, including those at risk for COPD and those already diagnosed with the disease.