Conaway Bill to Create COPD Task Force Gains Panel Approval

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Legislation Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. sponsored to increase awareness of a life-threatening lung disease that affects millions of Americans was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3248) would establish the Task Force on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung disease typically associated with smoking, in the New Jersey Department of Health. The task force would study the causes of COPD, encourage public awareness of the illness and promote the importance of effective prevention strategies, early diagnosis and disease management.

“The majority of people don’t think twice about breathing, but for those with COPD, it can be a daily struggle,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “In addition to helping to educate the general public about the disease and how to prevent it, this bill will help ensure that New Jersey residents living with COPD and their families can better understand how to treat the illness properly.”

The task force would consist of legislators, health care professionals with experience in diagnosing and treating COPD, health care industry representatives and public members appointed by the governor, including an individual diagnosed with COPD.

“This task force will bring together people with a variety of perspectives who can help those capable of directly influencing public health be effective,” said Conaway. “While there is no cure for COPD, smoking cessation, medication and pulmonary rehabilitation can treat this disease when patients are familiar with their options and proactive about wellness. The report this task force produces will go a long way toward achieving that end here in New Jersey.”

The task force would: determine what COPD resources are utilized currently; evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and prevention strategies; examine the current scientific base of knowledge about COPD; and investigate the need to improve the quality and accessibility of existing COPD-related community-based services.

The entity would be required to report its findings, recommendations and activities to the governor and the legislature within a year of organizing and would disband upon the report’s issuance.

COPD is the umbrella term used to describe multiple progressive diseases that cause air-flow blockage and breathing-relating problems. It primarily refers to emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The disease is the fourth leading cause of death in New Jersey, following heart disease, cancer and stroke, according to the Department of Health.

The bill was advanced by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, of which Conaway is chair.