With the writ dropping on the 44th federal election campaign earlier this week, the Lung Health Foundation eagerly awaits the platform commitments of the political parties to determine whether respiratory health is being paid the attention it deserves. As Canada begins to chart a path forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians more than ever understand the importance of lung health and expect party leaders to reflect their concerns.
Over 7.5 million Canadians suffer from lung disease. For Canadian men and women alike, it is the fourth leading cause of death. The cost to Canada’s healthcare system is a multi-billion dollar expenditure but Canada still lags other countries in important ways. Inadequate screening, poor attention to prevention, deadly delays in diagnosis and decisions made about care and treatment that are out of touch with current medical advancements all leave Canadians with a healthcare system that falls short of meeting their needs.
While the federal government has developed national strategies for virtually all of the other major chronic disease areas including diabetes, heart and stroke and dementia, lung disease continues to go overlooked and underfunded.
The Lung Health Foundation has been advancing the need for a National Lung Health Agenda that would develop goals and strategies in the areas of health promotion and awareness, research and surveillance, and disease detection and management. Seeing this commitment by party leaders would signal to Canadians that lung health is being seen as a priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed the detrimental impact of not prioritizing chronic disease management and exacerbated lung health issues that were already prevalent.
We also know that marginalized and at-risk populations suffer disproportionately from respiratory illnesses both in terms of incidence and mortality. Indigenous Canadians are about 2.5 times more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma is 40% more prevalent among the Indigenous population; Racialized communities and those facing poverty are the most vulnerable to the health and economic effects of infectious respiratory diseases such as COVID-19; and First Nations and Métis communities are 30% less likely to survive lung cancer five years after diagnosis.
Now, more than ever, there is a need to build a comprehensive national approach to advance the respiratory health of all Canadians. We look forward to party leaders committing to a National Lung Health Agenda throughout the campaign period and working collectively with the newly elected government on realizing this initiative.