Turkey Joins the FRESH AIR Project

FRESH AIR Turkey 5.2 squared

Pictured right is Assoc. Prof. Dr. Umut Gök Balcı, SB University İzmir Tepecik SUAM Family Medicine Department on behalf of Dr. Arzu Yorgancıoğlu and right, Respitek Regional Manager Mrs. Bedriye Bayansar. Vitalograph distributor Respitek hands over the Vitalograph Pneumotrac spirometry devices which are to be used to conduct a burden of smoke-related disease study in rural areas of Turkey using the FRESH AIR protocol.

Respitek are a well-known and respected distributor of high quality Cardio-Respiratory diagnostics, Respiratory Home Therapy and Sleep Therapy related products in Turkey, have kindly agreed to provide ongoing product training for this important FRESH AIR project, which Vitalograph has supported from its inception in many countries.

Having offices in the main cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara, Respitek offer fully national support in Turkey, for Vitalograph customers. In Turkey as of 2018, there is an obligation for primary care physicians to use spirometry. Respitek are the supplier in Turkey for the highest quality brand of spirometers. Vitalograph are renowned worldwide and have a wide range of top quality spirometers from simple and inexpensive hand-held spirometer devices to full-blown workstations capable of spirometry, ECG, SpO2, BP, Audiometry and other test types, all linked to the practice EMR or hospital networks.

Dr. Arzu Yorgancıoğlu a well-known respiratory physician in Turkey is Vice Chair of WHO-GARD, and sits on the IPCRG Scientific Advisory Committee for FRESH AIR https://www.theipcrg.org/freshair/team/meet-the-scientific-advisory-committee/professor-arzu-yorgancioglu

Worldwide hundreds of millions of people suffer from chronic, long-term lung disease. This prevents them from working and makes everyday life very difficult over a long period as their family member dies slowly but prematurely from ever-worsening lung disease. Lung disease is poorly understood by the general population and many healthcare professionals, so there is no diagnosis and no treatment or preventive measures.

While chronic lung diseases like COPD and asthma are not curable, with proper treatment the symptoms can usually be managed. In prosperous countries COPD is firmly linked to smoking, but in low and middle income countries many people are additionally exposed to smoke from household air pollution and sometimes also occupational exposures which cause lung disease. Often wood and animal dung is burnt inside houses for cooking without proper ventilation. Yet rates of tobacco smoking are increasing in low and middle income countries, especially men.

In Uganda for example, in country areas they refer to 'little cough' and 'big cough'. Little cough is tuberculosis, which is curable with antibiotics. Big cough is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which kills you.

The very low levels of awareness about the damage smoke causes the lungs and what can be done mean that people are not able to protect themselves and their families. For these reasons, urgent action is needed to prevent new cases, improve quality of life and reduce the numbers dying from chronic lung disease.

FRESH AIR is a project funded by the European Commission, which seeks to do just that. It explores how to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic lung diseases in countries where there are high rates of exposure to household air pollution and tobacco smoking, 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;
  • 7. Generate new knowledge and innovation and sharing this.

The EC funded project consists of interrelated activities in four countries: Uganda, the Kyrgyz Republic, Vietnam and Greece, but the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) are expanding the project into many other countries where there are similar problems. These countries have diverse demographic, geographic, economic and health systems. The cultural characteristics make the challenge different in every country and this learning will be widely disseminated nationally, regionally and internationally. Consortiums of 14 organisations from nine countries implement 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 country. 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 http://www.theipcrg.org/freshair