COPD Awareness Month
The leaves aren’t the only thing that turns orange in November! The eleventh month is also time to recognize COPD Awareness Month with the official advocacy color for chronic obstructive lung disease. Previous years have seen a variety of #GoOrange campaigns from the COPD Foundation throughout social media (and even one curious independent campaign of lip-sync videos done by a certain respiratory therapist in Michigan). This year’s theme is something a bit different though, and could be the start of a new movement, literally.
Lace-up for lungs
The campaign, known as Lace-Up for Lungs, has been percolating for quite some time now, but finally came to life in late September with a formal launch on World Lung Day. With an eye toward promoting movement and activity, the COPD Foundation team decided to design custom orange shoelaces with the Foundation logo printed on them. Staffers kicked things off by posting pictures and videos of themselves with orange-laced shoes, getting ready for hikes, games, and other activities. Some staffers got a little creative and turned their laces into bracelets, necklaces, and other accoutrements in order to be covering their orange bases no matter what footwear they prefer.
The challenge then comes out to the public. For a small donation, anyone can receive a pair of custom orange laces that can be used in similarly creative fashion (or even just as they were originally intended). Alternatively, people can simply use whatever orange they have around the house, be it a T-shirt, hat, a kerchief for one’s pets, anything to signal support for the community. Participants can then harness the power of social media by posting pictures and videos of themselves decked out in orange on their various feeds, amplifying the message and challenging their own networks to contribute. By using the hashtag #LaceUpforLungs and tagging the COPD Foundation, the more creative posts can be boosted even further, and everyone’s creativity has a chance at the spotlight.
The final component to the campaign is highlighting why one chooses to lace up. The Foundation has also created downloadable forms where they can highlight a friend or family member with COPD, show their support for patients in their care, or whatever individual reason they choose to fight for increased awareness. Showing these signs in the Lace Up media can help put an identity with the often-impersonal statistics that usually get discussed. They’re a powerful reminder that behind every number is a person, and behind every person is a story.
Harmonicas for health
Of course, COPD Awareness Month is also a great time to highlight some of the other projects the COPD Foundation uses to not only raise awareness, but improve the quality of life for people living with the condition. For example, in only 5 short years, the Harmonicas for Health program has become a mainstay of pulmonary rehabilitation and support groups across the country. It started with support from the Academy of Country Music, Harmonicas for Health combines social aspects of getting together and making a joyful noise with education and potential physiological improvement. Harmonicas, while difficult to master, are easy to learn, and are also lightweight and portable. Blowing through a harmonica also simulates a variety of breathing techniques and exercises that are commonly used to help people have better control over their breathing. Combine these benefits with the noted benefits of maintaining socialization and potential stress relief and it’s easy to see why Harmonicas for Health has blossomed.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many of these in-person supportive programs right along side more formal pulmonary rehab facilities. It turns out harmonicas are also effective tools in the virtual space as well, with online groups surfacing almost immediately across all the common videoconference platforms. The Foundation took this opportunity to modernize the program, adding video tutorials and making the entire process even more online-friendly. This not only allows virtual groups to flourish during the pandemic, but will also bring the power of harmonicas to people who may be homebound or otherwise unable to get involved with a local group.
Whether virtual or in person, Harmonicas for Health is designed for sustainability. Musical instruments (including harmonicas) have certainly been a part of social support programs in the past, but they were usually reliant upon a single person to be the champion. If that person decided to move on or step down, the program would often simply vanish. Harmonicas for Health, on the other hand, has pre-packaged training materials and player kits that allow someone else to step right in and keep the music playing. There is also a growing network of harmonica group leaders that can offer advice and guidance to help newer programs get off the ground or orient new facilitators to optimize success.
Raising awareness for COPD
While there is always more work to be done, November is a great time to reflect upon the myriad ways we in the pulmonary community can help advocate for our patients. One of the best ways to do this is to participate in awareness activities, whether it’s a social media campaign like Lace Up for Lungs or starting a program like Harmonicas for Health. Both of these provide are not only a creative outlet for people with COPD and those who care about them, they represent hope for a future that includes better understand, better therapies, and better opportunities.