18 November 2015
- Inequalities

Press release

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a non-communicable lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide1, causing more than 3 million deaths every year2. Of those diagnosed with COPD 3.5 million people need medical oxygen, and the numbers keep growing. 

Today 18th November is the fourteenth World COPD Day, an event held annually to raise awareness of COPD worldwide. This year’s theme, “It’s not too late,” emphasizes the meaningful actions people can take at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis. It also emphasizes the meaningful actions that society can take to improve conditions for those living with this chronic disease. 

To mark the day the European Federation of Allergies and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA) is launching an update of our popular booklet ‘Enabling Air Travel with Oxygen in Europe’. 

Many patients with COPD are advised by their physician to travel to places with temperate climates during wintertime, as it may ease their symptoms but travelling by air for this group of passengers can be challenging. 

In this publication we document the barriers that patients face when flying with medical oxygen and highlight the limitations in terms of information and medical service provision and EU legislation. We share the experiences of patients, documenting the challenges they encounter when dealing with often inconsistent and confusing policies and procedures.

Most of us take for granted the freedom to travel by air but citizens with COPD still face barriers which inhibit their freedom of movement.  EFA strongly believes that this should not be the case.

Today, World COPD Day 2015, EFA is calling on policymakers, airlines, and other stakeholders to take the steps recommended to remove these barriers. 

While improvements have been made since we first launched this booklet more needs to be done to help patients in need of medical oxygen to travel freely. By raising awareness of these issues we hope to bring about change in the practices of airlines and airports. 

Download our booklet ‘Enabling Air Travel with Oxygen in Europe’ or view online in ISSU

Patients living with COPD face other barriers.  Often levels of COPD care can vary from country to country in Europe.  

Early detection and correct diagnosis is fundamental to guarantee timely diagnosis and effective treatment plans that can help patients to properly manage the disease in their life.  Action is crucial given the fact that WHO estimates that COPD will be the 3rd leading cause of death by 2020

COPD treatment is most effective when begun early in the course of the disease. However, at all stages of disease, treatments are available that reduce symptoms such as breathlessness and enable people to participate more fully in daily life.

As part of our ongoing action on COPD EFA and its members in Belgium, France, Ireland and Spain have been working on the organisation of stakeholder meetings to advocate at national level for harmonisation of COPD care in member states.

The first of these meetings will take place in December and we will continue this activity in early 2016.  The campaign calls for improvements in COPD care in Europe including:

  • Early diagnosis, through the inclusion of spirometry in regular health checks
  • Multidisciplinary approach among healthcare professionals
  • Free of charge rehabilitation programmes (including smoking cessation programmes)

For more information on our action on COPD or to share your COPD story email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




1. World Health Report. Geneva: World Health Organization.  Available from URL:; 2000.

2.  Lopez AD, Shibuya K, Rao C, Mathers CD, Hansell AL, Held LS, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: current burden and future projections. Eur Respir J 2006;27(2):397-412.

3. Halbert RJ, Natoli JL, Gano A, Badamgarav E, Buist AS, Mannino DM. Global burden of COPD: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Respir J 2006; 28: 523–32.

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