World Spirometry Day: Breathe Well To Live Well

2010 is Year of the Lung
Lung diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than 10 million people each year. With a view to focus on the importance of breathing, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), celebrated the first World Spirometry Day on 14 October 2010, to raise awareness of the toll of suffering and death caused by lung disease – and to promote spirometry as a simple test that can reveal early warning signs of it. Read more

On this day, free spirometry tests were performed on 38,821 persons from 183 events worldwide. In India also, these tests were done free of cost on some patients at Bangalore Allergy Centre,and  M S Ramaiah Hospital with help from European Respiratory Society and European Lung Foundation.

“We all know that we have to breathe to live. Nevertheless the central role of the lung is neglected in basic health care,” says Dr Nils E Billo, Executive Director of the Union, which, as part of the Forum of International Respiratory Diseases (FIRS), is one of the organisers of the 2010 Year of the Lung.

The Year of the Lung aims to raise awareness about lung health among the public, initiate action in communities worldwide, advocate for resources to combat lung disease including increased investment in basic, clinical and translational research to improve patient care, convey that prevention of respiratory diseases is far more cost effective than their treatment, and spread the message that clean air is a fundamental human right.

The most prevalent and debilitating lung disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is under-diagnosed in 75% of cases, and global figures show that 50% of the patients remain un-diagnosed. Widespread under-diagnosis means sufferers only realise they have a serious lung disease once it is too late to prevent major damage, leaving them unable to carry on a healthy and active life. Women are as at risk as men, with those most at risk being over 40 and current or ex-smokers. While COPD can’t be cured, regular and early lung testing helps people to identify this and other potentially debilitating lung conditions before too much damage is done.

As a blood pressure test provides a simple screening method for cardiovascular disease, a spirometry test can help to unmask the early symptoms of a variety of lung diseases before any more obvious signs appear. Consequently the tests are being championed as a way to overcome the widespread under-diagnosis of serious lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Spirometry is a simple, non-invasive test which involves having a patient breathe deeply in and out for a spirometer machine, and measures the amount (volume) and/or speed (flow) of air that can be inhaled and exhaled. It measures how much air the lungs can hold and how well the lungs are able to move air in and out. As breathing in and out can be affected by lung diseases, the test can diagnose at an early stage whether a patient has COPD, asthma, pulmonary/cystic fibrosis or other respiratory problems.

According to international footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, "Healthy lungs are essential to breathe and be able to surpass the goals which we set ourselves every day. I support this cause so that everyone understands the importance of evaluating the health of the lungs regularly."

Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Gender Initiative and CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email:, website: 

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