WASHINGTON: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has retained Hager Sharp to conduct the first large-scale public outreach campaign around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The account is valued at $2.3 million over three years.
"I think we are blessed with an assignment that is 'from scratch,'" said agency EVP Garry Curtis.
COPD is a term for a number of conditions, most commonly emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The NHLBI campaign will reach out to current and undiagnosed patients, people at risk for developing COPD, and healthcare providers.
"It's needed," said Amy Pianalto, project officer with the Office of Prevention, Education, and Control. "[COPD is] the fourth leading cause of death for all Americans."
She declined to discuss specific tactics that the campaign would use.
Curtis also noted that the agency is still developing a strategic outreach plan as well as testing and developing messages.
But he added that the outreach would likely involve partnering with lung disease groups.
Curtis noted that one of the challenges for the PR team would be to address the "blame and shame" of patients with the disease, which primarily strikes smokers.
"The principle risk factor is smoking and the principle action step is to stop smoking," he said.
In addition to smokers, the campaign will also target people who are at risk because of genetic and environmental reasons.
Deaths from lung diseases have continued to rise while mortality rates from other leading causes of death have declined, according to the American Lung Association.
The NHLBI estimates that the annual cost to the economy is $37.2 billion.