Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the UK’s fifth biggest killer, each year causing more deaths than breast, prostate and bowel cancer. However, 2.8 million people are undiagnosed and unaware they have the progressive, possibly terminal disease. These are the ‘missing millions’.
In 2007 one of the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) key objectives was to identify the estimated 2.8 million people in the UK who have COPD and are undiagnosed. The BLF wanted to use a robust quantitative approach to find the “missing millions”. The key priority of the project was to build a segmentation of the population that worked on the dual axis of:
- Stratifying the population by their risk of having COPD
- Segmenting the population by their lifestyle types and preferred communications channels
This analysis, stratification and segmentation formed the basis of the ‘Invisible Lives Report’ To create the ‘Invisible Lives Report’ an external supplier was commissioned to combine Hospital Admissions data (HES) and lifestyle data to create a sophisticated model that estimates how many people in each PCT are at risk of having COPD. This model was independently evaluated by Professor Richard Hubbard from the University of Nottingham to ensure it was fit for purpose. The methodology enabled the BLF to produce a ranking of the PCTs with the largest estimated COPD population.
In 2008/2009 following the success of the work undertaken in the Invisible Lives’ report the BLF was awarded a grant of £50,000 to fund a pilot to evaluate the potential of using telephone contact to reach people who are undiagnosed and most at risk of COPD. The ‘Invisible Lives Report’ showed that South Tyneside had the highest proportion of people at risk of future hospital admission with COPD in the UK.
The BLF approached South Tyneside, to run a campaign alongside the telemarketing pilot to raise awareness of COPD and encourage early diagnosis amongst at risk groups in South Tyneside. The PCT recognised the importance of this and the potential to reduce future emergency hospital admissions, and matched the funding from the Department of Health to enable the BLF to run an integrated COPD awareness and telemarketing campaign.
The success of this campaign led to the roll-out of Love Your Lungs campaign in NHS Hull.
In January 2010 the BLF launched ‘Love Your Lungs; Hull’ campaign, which was specifically targeted at attracting those lifestyle segments identified in the ‘Invisible Lives Report’ as being most at risk.
The campaign had three integrated elements:
- Four ‘Love Your Lungs’ events were run at venues where the key at risk lifestyle segments were most likely to spend time/shop.
- 5,000 people from the most at risk lifestyle segments and who were most likely to respond to a telemarketing campaign were contacted by phone before the events to encourage them to attend.
- The BLF worked to involve local communities in the campaign by speaking to GPs, pharmacists, and community health centres in the areas identified as having the largest ‘at risk’ populations.
Libraries and community centres were encouraged to support the campaign, through sending campaign materials for display in these settings. The BLF also attended meetings with the local Practice Based Commissioning group and the Primary Care Trust to harness the support of the local GPs and health care professionals.
Phase One – 5000 calls
- 1029 information packs were sent to those with symptoms encouraging them to get their lungs checked
- 2026 packs sent to those without symptoms to raise lung health awareness
- Overall Conversion Rate of 76.0% for further information or helpline advice
Lung Testing Events results
Four events in Morrisons, at a Bingo hall and 2 at a local shopping centre:
- Total number of people tested: 790
- Total number of people referred to GP with abnormal lung function – 183 (23%)
- 60 packs sent to local GP surgeries
- 72 packs sent to other outlets including pharmacies, libraries community centres
- 34 packs sent to local pubs in high risk areas
Post event evaluation COPD
- 78% said the event had increased their awareness of causes of COPD
- 79% would recommend the test to another person
In total there were 14 separate articles of media coverage about Love your Lungs Hull. The campaign reached a potential audience of 1,512,782 local residents. The value of advertising generated was almost £16.050.50 for the regional newspaper advertising alone.
Lung Health and behaviour change
- 49% are trying to take more exercise since the event to improve lung health
- 37% felt since visiting the stand they were trying to eat more healthily in order to improve lung health
- 29% of smokers who attended the stands have changed their smoking habits by giving up, cutting down or being influenced to stop.
- 20% felt their habits had not been influenced by events
- 78% of smokers therefore, felt the event had encouraged them to cut down or quit
The exact saving of these results to the NHS is difficult to calculate, but it is likely that these people would have remained undiagnosed and without treatment their conditions would have become more severe and, when eventually diagnosed, more costly to treat. Assuming that each of these people would have been admitted to A&E at some point in the future, and this admission will now be prevented, the minimum saving to the NHS is approximately £73,000.