Less Educated Patients Unfamiliar with Term "COPD"

Survey results show health care consumers were generally unfamiliar with the term "COPD," but recognized "emphysema."

Many primary care clinic (PCC) users were not familiar with the term “COPD” (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), but most recognized the term “emphysema,” according to findings published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Researchers from Brazil gave face to face interviews in the form of questionnaires to patrons at 12 general PCCs and 26 family health PCCs in an urban area between May 2013 and February 2014. A total of 674 PCC users over the age of 40 years had their COPD related knowledge assessed. In order to have satisfactory knowledge, the interviewees were asked about their familiarity with the terms “COPD” and “emphysema;” if they were familiar with these terms, they were asked to elaborate about the risk factors and symptoms associated with the diseases.

The researchers defined satisfactory knowledge of knowing of at least 2 of its symptoms and acknowledging smoking as a risk factor for the disease. Acceptable knowledge of symptoms was listed as cough, expectoration, and dyspnea and risk factors included smoking or exposure to smoke from a wood burning stove.

A majority of the interviewees recognized either the term “COPD” or “emphysema,” though 9.2 percent recognized “COPD” while 75.1 percent recognized “emphysema.” Being familiar with the terms was linked to having a higher level of education, though was not associated with age, sex, or smoking. Satisfactory knowledge among the participants was 16.2 percent.

Most patients recognized dyspnea (70.6 percent) as a COPD symptom, followed by cough (2.7 percent) and expectoration (2.3 percent). Most participants were aware smoking is a risk factor for COPD (87.5 percent) but only less than 5 percent knew exposure to smoke was also a risk factor. The participants cited their knowledge as coming from the media (43.1 percent), a relative with COPD (36.4 percent), followed by friends (28.5 percent), physicians (23.1 percent), and pharmacists (2.6 percent).

The researchers commented that this study is aligned with other conclusions from studies all over the world, including the Middle East and North Africa. In 2 studies Spain and another conducted in France, 17, 8.6, and 8 percent of those interviewed were familiar with the term “COPD,” while more than half recognized “emphysema.”

“Health education must be emphasized for individuals with a low level of education,” the authors concluded. “The term ‘emphysema’ can be initially employed as a synonym of COPD and gradually replaced in health education programs. In addition, our data reveal that the lack of knowledge about the disease does not differ in relation to sex, age, or smoking status, and smokers (the at-risk population) present the same (low) level of COPD-related knowledge as do nonsmokers.”