June 1, 2016

Cathy Freeman, Australian sporting legend, joins forces with Lung Foundation Australia to change the face of lung disease

A healthy set of lungs is fundamental to a healthy life. Yet the simplest daily action, that we do about 22,000 times a day – breathing – is often taken for granted. Recent research confirms that:

  • Just over half of Australians (53%) rarely, or never, think about the health of our lungs[1]
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) know someone with a lung disease[2]
  • More than 1 in 3 of us are experiencing a symptom or share a risk factor[3]

These findings are an alarm for Lung Foundation Australia, considering the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that detail 7 million Australians have a chronic respiratory disease, equivalent to more than 1 in 4 Australians[4].

To encourage the nation to start thinking – and more importantly, talking – about their lung health, Lung Foundation Australia has enlisted the support of iconic Australian, Cathy Freeman, to put a face to lung disease in Australia.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said the personal faces of lung disease could be surprising. “We all have a picture in our mind of someone who has a lung disease, but in reality lung disease doesn’t discriminate,” Mrs Allan said.

“It affects the young, old, male, female, smokers, former-smokers, and non-smokers. Cathy Freeman herself has a lung condition, having been diagnosed with chronic asthma in 2007.”

Cathy Freeman will be the National Ambassador for Lung Foundation Australia’s Just One Breath initiative, as one of those surprising faces living with a lung related disease. Just One Breath is Lung Foundation Australia’s consumer initiative to explore what extraordinary things can be achieved with breath, and encourage Australians to start taking their own lung health seriously.

As part of the collaboration, Cathy has recently taken part in a regional NSW journey with Lung Foundation Australia to educate the Indigenous community and local school of Albury Wodonga on the importance of lung health. Cathy will also be the front to a series of video stories of other Australians living with a lung disease, and promote early diagnosis through Lung Foundation Australia’s Lung Health Checklist found at www.lungfoundation.com.au.

I’m proud to be working with Lung Foundation Australia to put a face to lung disease in Australia. By sharing my own story, I hope to encourage Australians to start talking about their own lung health. As an athlete, I know the importance of lung health, and I know how poor health can affect your life. I’m passionate about the lung health of Australians, particularly Indigenous Australians who are even more likely to have a lung disease,” said Cathy Freeman.

It was only earlier this year that I finally came to terms with my condition, when the penny dropped, and I realised I needed to take positive action against my lung condition. Up until then I had ignored my symptoms, I hadn’t wanted to admit I had a lung disease. It didn’t sit well with me as a former professional athlete, and it was just stubbornness that had me reluctant about accepting this condition as my way of life.”

“Australian adults rarely think about the health of their lungs, but they need to. It’s time we started to take the issue a lot more seriously. I strongly believe all Australians need to do the Lung Health Checklist, found at www.lungfoundation.com.au. I’m passionate about helping others, because I see myself in other people. I’d love to put a face to lung disease, to help change the current stigma and get people talking.”

Heather Allan continued Lung Foundation Australia are truly humbled that Cathy Freeman has chosen to help us take our message to the wider community – Cathy truly is an iconic Australian, and by her sharing her story, she will encourage Australians to do the same.”

“It is important for Australians to start talking about their lung health, so we can empower everyone to recognise the risks and symptoms of potential lung disease. Early diagnosis is key to helping deliver better outcomes. We encourage everyone to take the Lung Health Checklist. It only takes a few minutes, and the simple questions will help to recognise symptoms of lung disease and the need to act promptly.”

Cathy joins a list of high profile Australians who have taken part to stimulate the conversation on lung health, and the importance of ‘just one breath’. Last year, many well-loved faces recorded their own tips for better breathing, viewable at justonebreath.com.au. They include Jess Fox, Australian World Champion Slalom Canoeist, Christine Anu, multi-Aria Award winning singer/ songwriter and actress, Casey Dellacqua, Australian professional tennis champion, James Morrison, multi-instrumentalist jazz musician and composer, Melissa Breen, the nation’s fastest female sprinter, Matt Hall, Red Bull Air Race World Champion, Archie Roach, Australian musician, and Justen “Jughead” Allport, international big wave surfer.

 

A snaphot – the current climate of lung disease in Australia:

  • Lung disease is not just cancer. It also includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, respiratory infection (like cold and flu, pneumonia), bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, chronic cough, pulmonary fibrosis and more.
  • More than 1 in 4 Australians has a chronic respiratory disease[5]
  • 1 in 7 deaths in Australia is related to lung disease[6]
  • Indigenous people die of lung disease at a rate about 2.5 times higher than non-indigenous Australians[7]
  • COPD is the second leading cause of avoidable hospitalisation[8]
  • Lung cancer is still the biggest cancer killer in Australia
  • More women die of lung cancer than of breast and ovarian cancer combined[9]

 

References

 

[1] Galaxy survey prepared for Lung Foundation Australia, December 2015

[2] Galaxy survey prepared for Lung Foundation Australia, May 2016

[3] Galaxy survey prepared for Lung Foundation Australia, May 2016

[4] ABS 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15 . ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001

[5] ABS 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15 . ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001

[6] Lung Disease in Australia, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, October 2014.

[7] ABS 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15 . ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001

[8] Page A, Ambrose S, Glover J et al. Atlas of Avoidable Hospitalisations in Australia: ambulatory care-sensitive conditions.  Adelaide PHIDU. University of Adelaide.  2007

[9] Lung Disease in Australia, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, October 2014.