World COPD Day: a day to empower, educate and celebrate the COPD community

By Darren Umbers
Wednesday, 15 November, 2017

World COPD Day: a day to empower, educate and celebrate the COPD community

Imagine a patient feeling breathless. Being unable to fill their lungs, forcing short, shallow breaths that provide little relief. Now, imagine that patient feeling breathless at all times. This is the reality for these 600,000 Australians.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects around 600,000 Australians1 . These patients are suffering a progressive condition that limits airflow in the lungs, with the major symptoms being shortness of breath, chronic cough, body fatigue and chest tightness.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, and is estimated to be the third leading cause by 20202. Despite this, there is still a significant lack of awareness coupled with a social stigma of poor lifestyle choices associated with the disease.

In fact, only about half of the estimated 210 million people with the disease worldwide have been officially diagnosed3. Many COPD sufferers remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with a lung condition that has similar symptoms.

The numbers associated with COPD continue to rise, yet we continue to see a lack of general awareness around the disease.

Today marks World COPD Day, an opportunity for the world to come together and empower the COPD community.

I recently sat down with Russell Winwood, a Brisbane-based COPD patient, COPD advocate and Philips Ambassador.

Russell is a special patient. Upon learning of his COPD in 2011 he, like many, found it extremely difficult to move forward with the same level of optimism in life. However, he soon came to the decision that this diagnosis would not be life-ending, but a reason to turn his health around and celebrate all that his body can do.

Just six months after his diagnosis, he completed his first full Ironman competition, and continues to participate in triathlons around the world.

Russell Winwood: COPD sufferer, advocate and Ironman.

While there is no current cure, Russell is proof that COPD doesn’t need to be seen as a debilitating disease. In an effort to empower patients, Philips partnered with Russell to help share his personal journey with other patients, inspiring them to live their lives to the fullest.

When I ask him about what has truly driven the effective management of his COPD, he shared four key pillars. Focusing on these areas has allowed him to go from having just 22% lung function upon diagnosis to regaining his life and participating in marathons and triathlons across the world:

  1. Knowledge: Understand what it means to have COPD and how the disease will progress. Visit your doctor regularly and create an action plan to help track your progress.
  2. Treatment: While there is no cure for COPD, there are treatment options including prescription drugs and positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, portable oxygen concentrators, and ventilation therapy that can help patients maintain a better quality of life. By researching and having a strong understanding of the treatment options available, patients can have a more educated conversation with physicians about care plans.
  3. Nutrition: A healthy, well-balanced diet is incredibly important for COPD patients, as a poor diet can make symptoms worse and affect the ability to exercise. The right nutrition can even help patients breathe easier.
  4. Exercise: Exercise can help improve cardiorespiratory fitness level by strengthening large muscle groups within one’s body while also improving circulation and helping the body use oxygen more efficiently.

Today, Philips joins Russell and the COPD Foundation in helping to spread greater awareness of this disease, empowering and supporting the millions of lives it affects.

We’re asking people to visit, where they can view and educational video content featuring Russell. By supporting The COPD Foundation, we will help extend the organisation’s ability to educate, engage and empower patients, providers and physicians all over the world.

I asked Russell what this day means to him. He answered not that it is a day of sadness for sufferers, or a day to remind communities of a debilitating diagnosis. Instead, he said that this is a day to celebrate. It’s a day to celebrate the abilities of all patients; to empower them in mental and physical optimism, and to raise awareness of the incredible strength of this community.

I am proud to support Russell’s advocacy for such an important cause; a cause close to the hearts of many at Philips across the world.

Darren Umbers, General Manager of Sleep and Respiratory Care Business, Philips ANZ.

Top image: COPD patient Russell Winwood prepares to go riding. Image ©Philips

1Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15
2Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. 2017. Retrieved from:
3COPD Foundation, COPD Uncovered Report. 2011. Retrieved from:

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