By Gayla Oakley, RN, CCRP, MAACVPR | August 26, 2021
Chronic lower respiratory diseases, which encompasses chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is among the top five causes of death in the United States.
More people have COPD in rural America than urban-dwellers. More COPD sufferers means more hospitalizations and deaths from the chronic disease, plaguing rural hospitals. These areas also lack access to care, including pulmonary rehab, which is a key factor in the management of COPD. Access to pulmonary rehablitation is not defined just by frequency of physician referrals but can also be affected by inability to meet regulations (i.e. physician supervision), lack of time and support to step away from work, and lack of public awareness.
Decreasing mortality of chronic lung disease in a region is dependent on early diagnosis and treatment, as well as identification of the cause and prevention. In the Midwest, smokers aren’t the only people at risk of developing COPD. Many are exposed to agricultural organic dust, pesticides, chemicals, mold, exhaust and welding fumes. Appropriate respiratory protection is the first defense against acute respiratory illness and long-term disease in these environments. Respirator selection education events and “fit testing” are imperative and can be incorporated in pulmonary rehab programs.
Rural American has an informational resource newsletter called the Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub). The Rural Monitor is supported by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) of the US department of Health and Human Services to serve as a national clearing house on rural health issues. They are committed to supporting healthcare and population health in rural communities and providing access to current and reliable resources.
The RHihub recently published a 2-part series on rural COPD and the importance of pulmonary rehabilitation. The series included interviews from AACVPR Board of Director members, Aimee Kizziar MHAL, BA, RRT-NPS, RCP Pulmonary Rehab Supervisor, University of California Davis Health and Gayla Oakley RN, CCRP, MAACVPR, Dir of Cardiopulmonary Services at Boone County Health Center in Albion Nebraska.