19.05.2016 [News]

Fresh Air Project presented in Kyrgyzstan

FRESH AIR (Free Respiratory Evaluation and Smoke-exposure reduction by primary Health Care Integrated Groups) is a three year implementation science research project to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable lung diseases in low and middle income countries (LMICs) and other low-resource settings. The Consortium brings together leading international respiratory researchers, clinicians and policy experts from EU member states and the US who have expertise and experience of the challenges of implementation in LMICs and healthcare providers, policy makers and implementers from four countries that represent very different low-resource settings.

The project was recently presentd in Kyrgyzstan, one of its 4 target countries. The presentation was held on 30 April 2016 at the National Center of Cardiology and Therapy (NCCIM) of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The main aim of this event was to present the work of the project in Kyrgyzstan and its importance in strengthening public health in the country. The event was organised by project partners from Kyrgyzstan, the USA, The Netherlands and Switzerland, bringing together national stakeholders from politics and the scientific sphere:

  • Ms. Aida Ismailova - Member of the Committee of Health, Science and Social policy of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic,
  • Prof. Abdimannap Muratov – Head of the Science Department of the Ministry of Education and Science and Head of National Science Foundation of the Kyrgyz Republic,
  • Prof. Jyldyz Bakashova – National Coordinator of H2020 in Kyrgyzstan, and
  • other scientists, doctors and stakeholders.

Participants highlighted that participation of Kyrgyzstan in this international project with such valuable partners is a huge step forward for public health science.

The FRESH AIR project

We all need healthy lungs to lead healthy, active lives. Yet worldwide hundreds of millions of people suffer from chronic, long term lung diseases. These diseases cause symptoms that can stop people being physically active, prevent them working and make everyday life very difficult. Sadly, every year millions of people also die prematurely from chronic lung diseases. The Kyrgyz Republic has the highest mortality from respiratory diseases in the WHO European Region.

While chronic lung diseases are not curable, with proper treatment the symptoms can usually be managed. However, in low and middle income countries like the Kyrgyz Republic diagnosis and treatment can be difficult to access. Many people are also exposed to smoke from household air pollution that causes lung diseases and makes them worse. This is because they often burn wood and other solid fuels inside their houses for heating and cooking without proper ventilation. In addition, the Kyrgyz Republic has very high rates of tobacco smoking, especially amongst men, which is the other major cause of lung diseases. WHO figures indicate that in the Kyrgyz Republic 22% of deaths amongst men are caused by tobacco. However, there are very low levels of awareness about the damage smoke causes to lungs and what can be done, so people are not able to protect themselves. For all these reasons, Urgent action is needed to prevent new cases, improve the quality of life of people suffering now and reduce the numbers dying from chronic lung diseases.

FRESH AIR is an exciting new project, funded by the European Commission, which seeks to do just that. Over three years, starting in October 2015, it will explore how to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic lung diseases in countries where there are high rates of tobacco smoking and exposure to household air pollution, where healthcare resources are limited and where people’s awareness of the dangers of smoke is low. The project has seven specific objectives:

  1. Identify how policy makers and healthcare professionals can provide effective services;
  2. Raise awareness of the dangers of smoke so people can reduce their exposure;
  3. Develop services that help people quit smoking where resources are limited;
  4. Test new easier and cheaper ways of diagnosing COPD;
  5. Promote pulmonary rehabilitation, a low-cost treatment that improves people’s ability to breathe;
  6. Reduce children’s risk of lung damage and early mortality; and
  7. Generate new knowledge and innovation and sharing this.

The project consists of inter-related activities in four countries: the Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Vietnam and Greece. These countries have diverse demographic, geographic, economic, health system and cultural characteristics so the project will generate learning that will be useful in many other contexts. This learning will be widely disseminated nationally, regionally and internationally. A consortium of 14 organisations from nine countries implements the project with the support of a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of internationally renowned clinicians, scientists and researchers.

The FRESH AIR project involves patients, community groups, health care workers, policy makers, and other stakeholders through Stakeholder Engagement Groups in each of the four countries. These stakeholders are essential to provide input on local priorities and other contextual factors that are used in the detailed design of interventions. If you are interested in knowing more about chronic lung diseases and the project, please look at the FRESH AIR website which includes a range of resources and details of how to get involved.

Source: Ertabyldy Alymkulov, Horizon 2020 NCP, Kyrgyzstan