Report from the IRC Summit in Lisbon June 26th – June 27th
The International Respiratory Coalition (IRC) is an organization established in 2021 amidst the pandemic. Launched by a diverse group of partners, the IRC represents a broad spectrum that includes the professional respiratory community, patients, and industry players. The founding forces behind the IRC were ERS and ELF.
The IRC aims to advocate for lung health and advance respiratory care. Its vision is that every country should have the necessary tools to execute a national respiratory strategy based on the best practices. The IRC will collaborate with policymakers to create or enhance respiratory plans worldwide.
According to the IRC, approximately 550 million people globally live with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. Each year, around 4 million people die prematurely due to their respiratory diseases. This places respiratory diseases among the leading causes of death and disability globally.
The Summit held in Lisbon was the second face-to-face meeting, open by invitation only. PHA Europe was invited as a representative of a large patient lung community and for our active involvement in ELF.
Margarida Tavares, Secretary of State for the Promotion of Health in Portugal, delivered the opening speech. She swiftly highlighted that tobacco use is the primary cause of lung diseases in Portugal. It’s estimated that smoking is related to 12% of all deaths in the country. Alarmingly, the tobacco industry is vigorously lobbying at the EU Parliament, with roughly one tobacco lobbyist for every 3.5 parliament members. The good news is the decline in the number of smokers in most countries, including Portugal. However, e-cigarette usage and vaping are on the rise. This is concerning, and concerted efforts are needed to reverse this trend. The goal is to realize a tobacco-free generation within our lifetime.
Air quality was the second topic addressed at the conference. An English girl, Ella Roberta, tragically became the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as the primary cause of death on her death certificate. Her mother delivered a powerful presentation in an interactive online session. Her claim was unequivocal: we all have a fundamental right to breathe clean air.
An additional session was dedicated to improving access to care. I was privileged to chair this session alongside a doctor from Poland. This provided an opportunity to introduce PHA Europe to the audience briefly.
Vaccine scepticism was another issue addressed on the first day of the summit, an issue that became more apparent during the pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy poses a massive challenge for lung health since vaccines are an effective weapon against various lung diseases. Various strategies to mitigate vaccine scepticism were discussed. Despite the wealth of scientific evidence, some individuals will invariably be against vaccination. However, it is vital to reach those still undecided, providing them with clear, understandable scientific evidence to persuade them to get vaccinated, thus safeguarding their own lives and those of others.
Much of the second day was dedicated to the manifesto for better respiratory health. The manifesto outlines four key focus areas:
- Prevention of respiratory diseases
- Ensuring access to the right treatment at the right time
- Taking action to reduce health inequalities
- Prioritizing research, data, and insights to improve care
These four focus areas are also highly relevant to our specific disease area, Pulmonary Hypertension. The manifesto concludes: “By taking determined action to improve lung health, governments can save or improve people’s lives, reduce inequalities and economic costs, and build up essential healthcare resilience.” The full manifesto can be accessed online .
The IRC Summit proved to be an enlightening and informative experience. It feels appropriate for PHA Europe to align with the IRC since we represent a large lung health community and our goals align closely with those presented in the IRC Manifesto.
Egersund July 9th, 2023