Lung Association pushing for change

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — One hundred years ago, tuberculosis killed one in four Americans.

Today, only a handful of Americans die each year as a result of the disease, says Deborah C. Bryan, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of North Carolina.

But with more than 90 other lung diseases afflicting 12 percent of Americans, including one in five who die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, continuing support is needed to fight and prevent those diseases, she says.

“We each breathe 25,000 times a day,” she says. “We take it for granted because it’s an automatic system. But if you have a problem, that’s how many times you’re facing it.”

This year, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary, the statewide group has launched a special campaign to raise $1 million to create a collaborative service-delivery network, and is preparing for a national reorganization designed to create operating efficiencies.

The statewide group also is stepping up efforts to secure planned gifts through wills and estate plans, and is planning a series of special events as part of it ongoing effort to cover its $3 million operating budget.

With asthma, air quality and tobacco as its priorities, the association raises private funds to support education, advocacy and research.

In recent years, the statewide group successfully pushed state lawmakers to let children carry their asthma inhalers in school, to require coal-fired power plants to install scrubbers in their smokestacks, and to impose a 35-cent tax on cigarettes.

It also has worked to make sure some of the funds earmarked for North Carolina from the massive settlement among 46 states and the tobacco industry are used to prevent tobacco use.

“It’s a constant effort to keep that priority on prevention,” Bryan says.

Chaired by Matt Person, co-founder, chairman and CEO of the new American Institute of Healthcare and Fitness and former executive vice president at Rex Hospital, the Raleigh-based association employs a staff of 13 people and relies entirely on donations and special events for funds.

The association receives about $500,000 a year in grants and roughly $300,000 from the national Christmas Seals drive.

The state association also will host a series of special events to raise money and awareness about its work.

Chaired by Bob Ingram, vice chairman for pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline, the special anniversary campaign will raise money to launch the “Lung Health Network,” a collaborative effort among major medical centers, physicians’ offices and community-based groups that will provide programs and education to help people prevent and manage lung disease.

The state association’s incoming chair is Dr. Bill Fulkerson, CEO of Duke University Hospital, one of 20 hospitals throughout the United States that are part of the Asthma Clinical Research Center Network, the largest research network in the country, says Bryan.

Attacking lung disease, she says, requires the integration of education, research and advocacy.

Education and research can spur changes in behavior and build support for changes in the law that in turn can mandate changes in behavior, she says.

“So what we invest in advocacy,” she says, “can have a tremendous impact.”

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