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Tech revolutionises UK lung health data

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A tech-led initiative is supporting the future of the UK’s lung health through collating statistical evidence from across the country for the first time. 

The Lung Health Data Tracker aims to address the fact that for decades, data on respiratory health has been patchy, lagging far behind other diseases. 

While there are 12 million people living with a history of lung disease in the UK, no public-facing resource existed to inform researchers, healthcare professionals and the public about lung health across the country.

The Lung Health Data Tracker, created by the Taskforce for Lung Health – a collaboration of over 30 different charities, organisations and patients with lung conditions trying to improve lung health in England – is now helping to solve this issue of a lack of data. 

Through the tracker, this data and information about lung health into one place for the first time. The digital tool also highlights what information is missing from existing data sets on lung health, and where more data and more research is needed to help inform healthcare professionals, researchers and the public about lung health. 

The Lung Health Data Tracker is the first project of its kind to incorporate data on all areas of respiratory health, from air pollution to lung disease diagnosis and end of life care.

People using the Lung Health Data Tracker can explore what the picture looks like in their local area through interactive maps and summaries of how different aspects of lung health, such as flu vaccinations, air pollution and occupational lung disease, affect the nation.

Since the launch of the Lung Health Data Tracker in December 2019, the Taskforce has been able to highlight that nearly a million people in England have missed out on opportunities to quit smoking due to service cuts. 

It has also shown there are at least 450,000 people living with occupational lung disease – existing records only show 144,000 – and highlight the need for increased uptake of the flu jab among healthcare workers. 

Activists across the country have also started using the air pollution tracker to highlight worrying levels of air pollution in their local areas.

The project is being continuously developed, with pages on inhaler use and support groups expected to be launched later this year.

Dr Alison Cook, Chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, says: “The Lung Health Data Tracker was developed to address the huge gaps that exist when it comes to information about lung health.

“People are often surprised to learn that unlike disease areas such as cancer – for which data sets have existed for decades – there is no central respiratory registry or data store which can inform researchers, healthcare professionals and the public about lung health across the country.

“The data that does exist is often patchy, difficult to understand and hidden behind closed doors unavailable to the public. It is difficult to support people living with lung conditions when there are glaring knowledge gaps about how many people live with certain conditions, how easily they are able to access treatment, and how they are affected by lung health issues across the country.

“By launching and developing the Lung Health Data Tracker, the Taskforce is creating a one stop shop where anyone can access and more importantly understand, all of the available information we have about lung health in one place for the first time.”

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