By Beth Labasky, Director of State Government Relations for the COPD Foundation.
This past June, the 2010 Florida Legislature took important steps to combat COPD in the state. Governor Charlie Crist approved of budget language that, for the first time, gives the Florida Department of Health the power it needed to apply for money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to start collecting data about COPD.
The CDC money was available before passing this language, but the Department of Health did not consider COPD a priority and the money went unused. Now, starting in 2012, Florida can start collecting information it needs to make an even stronger case for more state efforts to join the fight against COPD.
The budget language was initially part of a larger bill called the Florida COPD Prevention, Education and Treatment Act. Although the larger act didn’t pass this time, the budget language is the momentum the COPD community in Florida needs to make a strong case in order to pass the full act when it is reconsidered in 2011.
The act mandates the implementation of statewide programs for prevention, education, screening and detection and access to care in Florida. The act will also provide for the education of medical professionals to make Florida a leader in addressing the needs of COPD patients. The budget language that was passed will direct the Florida Department of Health to maximize the use of all funding made available by public sources for COPD. If a federal agency, such as the CDC, has money to give to states for COPD-related activities, Florida must apply for that money.
The progress made in Florida began in 2008 with the Florida COPD Summit. State COPD summits proved to be a great way to bring the COPD community together in a local setting to think about how the state can start fighting the disease. A state summit involves all stakeholders in the COPD community, including individuals with COPD, employer and insurance communities and state and public health officials.
The Florida COPD Coalition was created after the successful 2008 Florida COPD Summit. Over 70 participants came together to discuss emerging issues related to COPD in Florida and to create a plan on how to solve them.
As a result of this Summit, 65 specific goals and objectives were established, which included prevention, early detection and screening, education, treatment, and expansion of advocacy initiatives throughout the state.
In addition, the Summit participants recognized the need for ongoing collection of data and information related to COPD, and greater recognition of COPD by the state of Florida. These initial Summit recommendations have served as the blueprint for the Florida COPD Coalition’s efforts. Florida’s success in having COPD recognized and addressed in state government sets them apart and makes them a model that other states can use.
The Florida COPD Coalition is determined to use this victory as a springboard and is committed to implement the 65 objectives from the original summit, as well as others as they arise from the COPD community. Based on its initial success, the Florida COPD Coalition received a subcontract from the COPD Learn More Breathe Better Campaign, and has begun working on awareness and education objectives.