The 3 million euros study, led by the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) subsided of from the European Commission will help find solutions for chronic pulmonary disorders in low and middle income countries and for dreprived groups (such as Roma, in Greece). These disorders are common in those countries because a large proportion of the population smokes or cooks under primitive conditions. “The great thing about this project is that we’re involving the local population,” explains Professor Niels Chavannes, principal investigator of the Fresh Air Study, an international consortium of fourteen partner institutes.
Two main sources of smoke pose a threat to the lungs of billions of people around the world: cigarette smoke and the smoke produced when cooking under primitive conditions, in addition to poor air quality. Every day, around three billion people (usually women) cook inside the home with fuel such as wood, cow dung or coal, generating a great deal of smoke that can damage the lung function. In addition, the poorer countries are home to approximately three-quarters of the world’s tobacco smokers.
Now that infectious diseases are being effectively combated in countries with low incomes, agreater focus is given to COPD, which has been found to be a major problem. Little is known about the disease, even though pilot studies have been carried out in a number of countries, such as Uganda, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Greece. “In those countries, we’ve built up a network of committed local researchers who are now taking part in this large project. We plan to map out the problem of lung diseases in detail, but also to look for specific solutions. And if they work, we also want to be able to implement them straight away.”
Research has shown that those solutions can differ for each country so it is important to ask the population to contribute ideas and to give them a greater say in the matter. The researchers hope to develop a matrix in which a number of variables, such as local cooking habits, cultural practices and the available fuel, determine which solution is the most suitable for a particular country.
“One thing we discovered in earlier research is that it’s important to demonstrate the link between smoke and children’s health. People everywhere want their children to be healthy, yet children’s health is often seriously affected by smoke because they often sit on their mother’s lap while she is cooking. In some cases, children’s lungs are even damaged in the uterus.” Many children under the age of five have already been prescribed an average of two courses of antibiotics for respiratory disorders. The Fresh Air Study will examine whether this can be reduced, because some of these ‘respiratory disorders’ are actually caused by smoke poisoning rather than infections.
“We want to focus on education, using resources such as information films, animation and texting via mobile phones. We also want to test an app that people can use to measure their own lung function by blowing into the speaker of their smartphones. It’s vitally important that people are given accurate information because healthcare workers in rural areas in poor countries are often badly trained and don’t even realise that smoking and kitchen smoke are unhealthy,” says Chavannes.
For more information you can contact Leiden University Medical Center, directorate Communication, telephone +31 71 526 8005, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC)
As a center of medical innovations the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) strives towards an (inter)nationally recognized leading role in the improvement of quality of health care. Core business of the LUMC are patient care, research, education and training. The LUMC is part of the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers (NFU). The NFU is a collaboration of the 8 University Medical Centers of the Netherlands. www.lumc.nl
FRESH AIR fist newsletter
In December 2016, the project leaders shared the first set of information about the results of the project via its first newsletter.