Promoting respiratory health in Europe: a lot achieved, still more to do – ERS 2013

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine was excited to attend the 23rd Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society  (ERS) in Barcelona on September 7th-11st. The world’s largest congress on respiratory health and disease, with around 10,000 delegates from across the world, aimed to raise awareness of lung health and improve prevention, management and treatment of respiratory diseases. “The mission of ERS” commented Professor Francesco Blasi, ERS President, “is to alleviate suffering from respiratory diseases”. The conference covered every aspect of respiratory research from basic research to clinical practice and intensive care.

Professor John Gibson launched at ERS the new edition of the European Lung White Book, a comprehensive book published by the European Respiratory Society that provides burden, cost and risk factor information for a range of respiratory diseases. “We hope that this White Book will help to inform decision making about the future provision of healthcare for patients with respiratory disease and to highlight the conditions for which more facilities and resources are likely to be required, as well as areas where further research is most needed”.
A chapter of the White Book dedicated to the economic burden of respiratory diseases explains that at least half the total socioeconomic costs of respiratory disease can be attributed to smoking.

on Flickr  by my Huy StreetphotographyAn interesting session focused on the burden of smoking, costs on society caused by smoking and on current trends in smoking prevalence in Europe and worldwide. Dr. Constantine Vardavas from Harvard School of Public Health, and Editor in Chief of Tobacco Induced Disease, presented an overview on the effects of new tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, including the first e‐cigarette designed with a new technology to monitor and regulate power, heat and cartridge performance. The main point that Dr. Vardavas highlighted was that, unfortunately, very limited scientific evidence exists on the awareness, knowledge, constituents and perception of harm of electronic cigarettes.
Given the increasing popularity of these devices in many countries, and the accompanying regulatory uncertainty and inconsistency, studies are urgently needed to establish whether these devices might be able to fulfill their potential as effective and safe smoking aids.

Other highlights of the congress included Professor Mark Lipman, from Royal Free Hospital, London, in a talk outlining a new feasible method of monitoring tuberculosis treatment programs. The “virtually observed treatment” (VOT) could aid adherence to tuberculosis medication, ensuring patients effectively complete their course of treatment. The VOT method requires people to send to their healthcare provider a short video of them taking their medication, using a mobile phone. After an initial visit to the clinic, this can be completed remotely, with any issues being followed up when required. Researchers from the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust piloted the effectiveness of the VOT technique and observed 86% of scheduled doses. These preliminary findings suggest that telemedicine can help to overcome the difficulties in directly monitoring patients taking their medicines. This, according to Prof. Lipman, has the potential to also reduce costs and resources but a larger study is needed to ensure the safety and reliability of this technique.

on Flickr, by Kevin dooleyAn intriguing symposium described the impact of urbanization in asthma and allergy among children and adults. The sessions provided an update on rural-urban differences in the prevalence of asthma, rhinitis and allergic sensitization, as well as risk factors that contribute to these differences. Paula Pallashao from Helsinki reported some trends in allergic sensitization and rhinitis in relation to urbanization. Most important findings are that living in a rural farm during the first 5-7 years of life, or growing up in the countryside, is associated with lower incidence of allergic rhinitis in adulthood. However, urbanization is associated with higher prevalence of allergic sensitization. “Farm environment, farm milk, pets, dietary factors, biodiversity are protective factors for allergic sensitization.”  said Pallashao.

Overall the mission of the ERS congress was the promotion of respiratory health through scientific excellence, education and exchange of best clinical practice.
A lot achieved, still more to do!