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    Story Highlights

    • Jamaica will be a pilot site for a $20 million project aimed at determining the prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
    • The Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) Project will be undertaken by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with UWI.
    • Research will be done to determine how many Jamaicans are afflicted with COPD.

    Jamaica will be a pilot site for a $20 million project aimed at determining the prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is one of the leading tobacco-induced diseases.

    The Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) Project will be undertaken by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pulmonary Research Group from the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Department of Medicine.

    “This research will be conducted over an eight-month period and will provide Jamaicans with hard evidence of the prevalence of COPD and the burden of tobacco use and exposure to other environmental pollutants,” said Consultant Pulmonologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Dr. Althea Aquart-Stewart.

    Addressing a JIS Think Tank on Wednesday, December 18, Dr. Aquart-Stewart informed that research will be done to determine how many Jamaicans are afflicted with COPD, which is also linked to heart disease and occurs from the long-term use of tobacco and exposure to cigarette smoke.

    The project will also be used to establish information on the economic burden of the disease in the 18 to 39 age group by looking at factors like the recurrent costs of doctors’ visits, medication and productive time lost.

    The project is slated to begin in Jamaica in March 2014 and is being funded jointly by the National Health Fund and the (UWI) Principal’s Initiative Fund.

    The research team will be supported with quality control provided by the Imperial College in the United Kingdom.

    Dr. Aquart-Stewart said that COPD, which presents like asthma, because it involves coughing and wheezing, is a leading cause of early mortality and or an altering of the quality of life.

    “One will almost permanently be affected by shortness of breath as a result of chronic cigarette smoking. With COPD, it is not just the lungs that are affected, but the heart, the bones and the gastro-intestinal tract. It is a systemic disease, but the good news is that it is preventable,” she stated.

    Dr. Aquart-Stewart, who is the Principal Investigator in the research group, cited statistics from the 2010 Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in high schools, which found that youngsters were beginning to smoke from as early as 12-years-old and were able to purchase cigarettes without restrictions from shopkeepers.

    “If that were to continue, we would need to be very concerned about our population in another few years. We need to know what burden COPD will be on the population in the near future,” she stated.

    The BOLD project is being carried out in many countries and data from other countries has been useful to health planners worldwide.

    The programme began in the UK in 2001with a planning phase that involved the drafting of a questionnaire that could be used worldwide and establishing a protocol for the project.