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How Can Pharmacists Improve Flu Vaccination Rates in Patients with COPD?

Although individuals living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a significantly higher risk of morbidity and mortality if they acquire influenza, most do not receive the annual influenza vaccination. To improve vaccination rates among this group, pharmacists must prioritize the promotion of the flu vaccination by maintaining an awareness of the characteristics present in those who generally do not receive vaccinations. 

Despite best attempts of Healthy People 2010 to achieve a 60% coverage rate for high-risk adults, less than 40% of individuals with COPD were vaccinated. Although Healthy People 2020’s goal has increased to 90% coverage, “vaccination rates among these patients rarely exceed 50%.” Concerning is the fact that unvaccinated patients with COPD have substantially higher risks of experiencing “exacerbations, greater pulmonary function impairment, reduced quality of life, and economic burden if they develop the flu.”

Researchers from the University of New Mexico have recently published a study, which appeared in the journal titled, “Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.” The study analyzed COPD patients who responded to the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in order to determine influenza vaccination rates. This data was then used “to identify predisposing, enabling, and need factors that influence the decision to be vaccinated.”

The findings revealed that 53% of respondents had been vaccinated. Data also suggested that the older the individual, the more likely they were to have been vaccinated. Patients who were never married had a significantly lower likelihood of being vaccinated in comparison to those who were married, divorced, widowed or separated. Additionally, participants who were current smokers or who had not seen a healthcare provider for a checkup in a year or more were also less likely to be vaccinated.

It was also discovered that unemployed individuals, as well as those who received care from a primary physician or were insured also had a higher likelihood of vaccination. Increased rates were associated with the prevalence “of a pharmacist immunizer on the staff of centers that serve the medically underserved.”

Although certain individuals may be less likely to receive the flu vaccination, sometimes a simple encouragement can make all the difference. Pharmacists can make an impact by screening for patients with COPD, determining which factors they may have that are associated poor vaccination rates, and providing encouragement to patients who are less likely to receive the vaccination.

Click Here to Access the Full Article on Pharmacy Times

9 Tips to Lower Your Risk of Lung Disease

Second only to heart disease, lung disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Although various lung diseases stem from genetics, many of them can be avoided by adhering to a “healthy lifestyle and avoiding lung irritants.” Adhere to the following tips to lower your risk of developing a lung disease.

june2017_006Choose a Healthy Diet and Consider Vaccines
Healthy foods might not heal lung damage, but a balanced diet will enhance your overall health and wellbeing and help to lower the risk of lung disease. It may also be helpful to receive an annual flue or pneumonia vaccination, particularly “if you have compromised health”.

Stop Smoking
The most effective way to prevent lung disease is to quit smoking. Although this might present challenges to heavy smokers, it is a feasible goal that will improve your overall health. In addition to cigarette smoke, marijuana, pipe and cigar smoke are also harmful. Avoiding secondhand smoke and smoky atmospheres is also equally as important.

Test for Radon
Radon, a radioactive gas, can exist in “homes and public buildings, particularly in small areas and in basements.” Invest in a radon testing kit, which can be purchased from your local hardware store. If positive results for radon are found, it is essential to ensure the building is appropriately ventilated and all cracks where the gas could flow through are sealed.

Avoid Asbestos
Being exposed to asbestos can have serious ramification on your lung health. Those working in certain construction-related industries can have a higher risk of being exposed and should regularly receive health and safety training. It is also vital to have your home inspected for asbestos as “asbestos is still contained in many public and private buildings”.

Stay Away from Dust and Chemical Fumes
Common household spray cans, such as hair spray, air fresheners and house paints, “can irritate lungs so use them sparingly in well-ventilated areas.” Also avoid dust inhalation by wearing a face mask.

Receive a Spirometry Test
In the case that you might feel your lungs may be compromised or you have “an increased risk of developing a lung disease due to your work history or lifestyle choices,” schedule an annual spirometry test. This can help to detect potential problems before they cause serious damage.

Contact Your Physician
Chronic cough that persists after several weeks could signify a medical issue with your lungs. It is vital that you schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause. Additionally, it is essential to contact a medical provider if you are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pains.

Click Here to Access the Full Article on Bronchiectasis News Today

What to Know If You’ve Just Been Diagnosed With COPD

Learning to navigate through life after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be a challenging endeavor. In addition to the help that your healthcare team can provide, such as prescribing medications and enrolling you in pulmonary rehabilitation, there are also steps you can take to alleviate exacerbations and enhance your quality of life.

The British Lung Foundation highlights best practices you can leverage to avoid COPD symptoms.

june2017_004Stop Smoking
Smoking cessation is the “most important thing you can do to slow the progression of your COPD”. Quitting smoking is also an impactful way to improve your overall health and wellness. If you are finding it difficult to quit, take advantage of the resources your physician can offer to help you achieve success.

Learn Breathing Techniques
If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, incorporate breathing control techniques to “help ease through” these instances. These exercises include relaxing your shoulders and arms, as well as finding a more comfortable position. Your healthcare team, such as your physiotherapist or nurse, can demonstrate these techniques so you can gain a more thorough understanding.

Start Exercising
Incorporating gentle exercise into your daily routine can significantly improve your state of wellbeing. To begin building your strength and stamina, start with gentle walking for approximately 20 minutes per day. Pulmonary rehabilitation can provide additional support to “devise an exercise regimen that’s right for you.” 

Keep a Healthy Body Weight
Whether you weigh too little or too much, body weight plays a significant role in impacting COPD symptoms. To ensure you reach and maintain a healthy body weight, contact your physician or nutritionist, to create a supportive diet that’s conducive to you.

Choose Nutritious Foods
Eating “a healthy, balanced diet” containing whole foods is essential. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber into your daily meals. Ensure that you are also eliminating “processed foods and foods which are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.” Also remember to adhere to recommended water intake levels each day to ensure you avoid dehydration.

Have a Plan
Don’t wait until it’s too late. In the case that you experience a flare-up or exacerbation, it’s highly beneficial “to have a plan in place so that you and your family know what to do.” Reserve time to speak with your healthcare team and loved ones about your options.

Click Here to Access the Full Article on COPD News Today

Study Reveals How HIV Virus Destroys Lung Tissue

A recent study published in Cell Reports exposes the damage human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has on lung tissue. Weill Cornell Medicine researchers discovered a mechanism that could explain why nearly “30 percent of HIV patients who are appropriately treated with antiretroviral therapies” are later diagnosed with emphysema. Further, the study reveals how HIV binds to and transforms basal cells lining airways. These altered cells then release enzymes that can “destroy lung tissue and poke holes in walls of air sacs.”

june2017_002“This research is important because although antiretroviral agents have turned HIV into a chronic, rather than deadly, disease, the viral reservoirs that remain in the lungs and other tissue continue to cause serious side effects,” said senior author Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine and the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a pulmonologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Now that we have more information about how the HIV virus might cause emphysema, we can learn more about this potential enzyme target and work toward developing a therapy to prevent this lung damage from happening.”

Although antiretroviral agents have helped to extend the lives of HIV-positive patients, they develop “degenerative disorders of the brain, heart and lungs” significantly more often than the general population. There are various explanations for this occurrence, including the belief that the antiretroviral drugs may in fact lead to these outcomes.

To gain insight, researchers exposed normal human airways basal cells, acquired from the lungs of nonsmokers, to HIV. Under observation, it was discovered that the virus “bonded to the basal cell’s surface and reprogrammed them to start producing an enzyme.” This enzyme then began to deteriorate proteins as well as destroy tissues. This finding is significant as emphysema originates in the airways, when basal cells are transformed due to the virus they begin to destroy healthy lung tissue which ultimately leads to emphysema.

“Our next step is to conduct additional research to determine what the preventive therapeutic target might be,” Crystal said, “And then, since basal cells are so important to normal lung anatomy and lung function, determine the other side effects of this re-programming.”

Click Here to Access the Full Article on Cornell

Using Apps to Persuade People with COPD to Increase Physical Activity

A study published in Journal of Medical Internet Research provides insight into how technology-based interventions could increase daily walking levels of people with COPD after they complete pulmonary rehabilitation to help them “experience a higher quality of life and fewer acute exacerbations. Researchers developed and implemented three prototype applications based on various persuasive technology design principles including “dialogue support, primary task support, and social support.”

“Our aim was to inform the choice of design principles and specific persuasive techniques in the design of an app that could be used to encourage physical activity in this population,” the researchers wrote.

may2017image004The first prototype utilized dialogue support, along with a virtual coach that addressed the user by their name and instructed them through their goals. Users had the option to receive reminders and “audio encouragement while walking.” The application also “provided a suggested exercise plan with daily goals.”

The second prototype was based upon a primary task support approach. This approach enabled users to set goals and track activity on their mobile device. While engaging in exercise, users were “offered feedback with activity levels for each day.” In addition, the prototype allowed for users to pick their preferred music and highlighted “local exercise facilities on a map.”

The third prototype incorporated the social support approach to “build a community of similar users to support physical activity.” Participants could compete and collaborate with other users, as well as share tracked activity. The application also, “awarded points when users achieved their goals with the potential for both virtual and real-world rewards.”

The study found that out of all three prototypes, the first was the most persuasive and most likely to be used. The second prototype was deemed the most likely application to encourage, “participants to use a technology.” The third prototype was reported to be the least persuasive and inappropriate as the competitive component could “dishearten users.”

Highly ranked features included “features of tips and advice on performing activity,” as well as the ability to set customized goals and view graphed levels of activity. The lowest ranked features included the identification of local sporting facilities, achieving trophies based on the completion of goals and the display of points earned by other participants.

“The findings suggest that a system that supports dialogue between the user and the technology alongside supporting the primary task (here, walking) to promote the self-regulation of physical activity is likely to be acceptable to [people with COPD] and perceived as persuasive,” the researchers wrote.

Click Here to Access the Full Article on The American Journal of Managed Care

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