By JANELLE HOM
The American Lung Association…it’s an organization you’ve heard of and know it is a trusted name. This organization has been around for more than 100 years but the true breadth of our work impacts everyone breathing.
My career started with the American Lung Association in May of 2008 as an intern. My job at the time was to plan what has become our signature nationwide events, the Fight For Air Climb and LUNG FORCE Run/Walk. I can say honestly, at that time, I did not know much about the American Lung Association but learned quickly just how impactful the mission and how far of a reach it has. Fundraising events such as those are helping to fund lifesaving research and provide education for all impacted by lung disease.
The American Lung Association, formerly the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, was founded in 1904 with the purpose of fighting tuberculosis, a disease that was not controlled in the United States or globally. Through the power of volunteers coming together to raise funds and awareness around this devasting disease, tuberculosis was nearly eradicated by the 1950’s. The American Lung Association today fights 28 different lung diseases, are focused on eliminating tobacco use and related lung disease, improving air quality for all and reducing the burden of lung disease on patients and families.
The mission of the American Lung Association is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy, and research. Can you imagine a world free of lung disease? We are focused on accomplishing this mission through four key areas: defeating lung cancer, improving the air we breathe, reducing the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families, and eliminating tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.
All of that sounds noble and great, but what does that mean for the people living in Central Florida? Your local American Lung Association staff are working hard every day for patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and everyone in the region to bring this mission to life. From our first breath to our last, every breath counts. Here are just a few of the local activities and resources happening in Central Florida:
Tobacco Control: Perhaps when you think of the American Lung Association, you may think that is the organization that tells people to quit smoking. We know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. For 35 years Freedom From Smoking has been a resource to help smokers quit; it is ranked as one of the most effective cessation programs in the country. More recently, the American Lung Association launched INDEPTH, an alternative to suspension or citation that helps schools and communities address the teen vaping problem in a more supportive way. We are proud to offer INDEPTH at no cost to schools and are always looking to connect with teachers and administrators.
Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of women in the United States. Consider these eye-opening facts: every five minutes, a woman in the U.S. is told she has lung cancer; in the last 41 years, the rate of new lung cancer cases has fallen 35% among men while increasing 87 percent among women. We are working to change perceptions around lung cancer and that anyone can develop it. The American Lung Association launched LUNG FORCE in 2015 to educate men and women on lung cancer and advocate for increased research funding for better detection and treatment methods, and ultimately to find a cure. Locally, you can get involved in a local walk (the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk will take place on May 2nd in Baldwin Park), attend the LUNG FORCE Expo during Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, or engage in a number of opportunities year-round to share your voice. We are also proud to offer a local Lung Cancer Support Group which meets the second Tuesday of every month at the American Lung Association’s Central Florida office.
COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. This disease affects millions of Americans and is the third leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S. The American Lung Association offers a variety of resources for patients including Better Breathers Clubs, an educational and support program. Better Breather’s Clubs are open to lung conditions including COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and asthma. A full list of these program locations are available on our website at lung.org/support-and-community/better-breathers-club/.
These are only a few of the examples of how the American Lung Association is impacting the lives of those living in Central Florida. There are countless opportunities for volunteerism, philanthropy, advocacy, and receiving the benefits of these lung health programs. Take a moment to think about who you may know that has been impacted by lung disease; chances are you’ll think of several examples. At the end of the day, when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters, and that drives your local dedicated staff to serve Central Florida and fulfill our mission.