August 1, 2015

Your Opportunity to Advocate for Pulmonary Rehabilitation – We Need Your Help

Chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis and interstitial lung disease share a common limiting symptom – breathlessness. When breathlessness is not well managed, daily tasks like walking to the shops and even showering, become difficult and social isolation is a risk as outings become restricted.

Pharmacological interventions have been shown to be effective for symptom management and reducing exacerbations. However, the most effective evidence-based intervention is actually non-pharmacological – pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs generally consist of eight weeks of exercise
and education.

But this important program is not as widely available as it should be.

There will be an opportunity for members and the community to support Lung Foundation Australia to increase access to this important service.

Often, if you get breathless during activity you will avoid exercise. Consequently, your muscles get weaker and you decondition over time. This means when you do need to be active, you get even more breathless. Exercise training is an essential part of pulmonary rehabilitation as it can help to reverse the “cycle of inactivity and breathlessness.” Clinical trials have consistently shown that an improvement in exercise tolerance is one of the main benefits of completing a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Improved exercise tolerance means activities such as showering, walking or gardening may become easier after completing this program, which leads to an improved quality of life and greater independence. On completion of pulmonary rehabilitation, most people report that they are able to
do more in their daily activities, and are less out of breath during the tasks. Other benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation include improved mood and motivation, reduced hospital admissions and reduced length of stay in hospital.

Further information can be found on our fact sheet: www.lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Pulmonary-Rehab-Fact-Sheet-Feb-2015.pdf

Pulmonary rehabilitation is traditionally delivered in hospitals or within community health centres under a hospital and health service. Lung Foundation Australia is hoping to improve access to these programs and has lodged an application with the Australian Government’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee for a Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) (Medicare) item number. If we are successful in getting an MBS item number for pulmonary rehabilitation, this will mean more programs will be established in the community. This will take pressure off hospital programs and provide access in smaller communities which previously had no program.

There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on this proposal and we encourage you to support our efforts. For further information on how to comment please telephone our Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301 or email enquiries@lungfoundation.com.au.