Chronic respiratory diseases

WHO's role and activities: COPD

The role of WHO

WHO recognizes that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is of major public health importance. The Organization plays a role in coordinating international efforts against the disease. The aim of its strategy is to support Member States in their efforts to reduce the toll of disease, disability and premature death related to COPD. International action is needed to:

  • increase public awareness of the disease to make sure patients and health professionals recognize the disease and are aware of the severity of associated problems;
  • organize and co-ordinate global epidemiological surveillance to monitor global and regional trends in COPD; and
  • develop and implement an optimal strategy for its management and prevention.

WHO activities

Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD):
WHO leads the Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD), which is a voluntary alliance of national and international organizations, institutions and agencies from a range of countries working towards a common goal of improving global lung health. Its vision is a world where all people breathe freely. GARD promotes an integrated approach that capitalizes upon synergies of chronic respiratory diseases with other chronic diseases. GARD focuses specifically on the needs of low and middle income countries and vulnerable populations. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (GOLD) is part of GARD.

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC):
The WHO framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic, with the aim to protect billions of people from devastating impact of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is the first global health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization, and has been ratified by more than 140 countries.

WHO's Programme on Indoor Air Pollution
WHO, as the global public health agency, collects and evaluates the evidence for the impact of household energy on health and for the effectiveness of interventions in reducing the health burden on children, women and other vulnerable groups. Cooking and heating with solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves results in high levels of indoor air pollution. Indoor smoke contains a range of health-damaging pollutants, such as small particles and carbon monoxide, and particulate pollution levels may be 20 times higher than accepted guideline values.

WHO has developed a comprehensive programme to support developing countries. WHO's Programme on Indoor Air Pollution focuses on:

Key partners include the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank as well as many research institutions and non-governmental agencies around the world. WHO is already actively taking part in projects in several developing countries, including the most sophisticated scientific indoor air pollution study to date undertaken in Guatemala, and work in China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Kenya and Sudan. In the future, work will focus even more on those countries and populations most in need.

More information on COPD