Use of a cross-sectional survey in the adult population to characterize persons at high-risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Roy A. Pleasants, Khosrow Heidari, Jill Ohar, James F. Donohue, Njira Lugogo, Chelsea L. Richard, Sarojina Kanotra, David M. Mannino, Monica Kraft, Winston Liao, Charlie Strange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Rationale/Objective: The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) health survey has been used to describe the epidemiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the US. Through addressing respiratory symptoms and tobacco use, it could also be used to characterize COPD risk. Methods: Four US states added questions to the 2015 BRFSS regarding productive cough, shortness of breath, dyspnea on exertion, and tobacco duration. We determined COPD risk categories: provider-diagnosed COPD as self-report, high-risk for COPD as ≥10 years tobacco smoking and at least one significant respiratory symptom, and low risk was neither diagnosed COPD nor high risk. Disease burden was defined by respiratory symptoms and health impairments. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression models with age as a covariate. Results: Among 35,722 adults ≥18 years, the overall prevalence of COPD and high-risk for COPD were 6.6% and 5.1%. Differences among COPD risk groups were evident based on gender, race, age, geography, tobacco use, health impairments, and respiratory symptoms. Risk for disease was seen early where 3.75% of 25–34 years-old met high-risk criteria. Longer tobacco duration was associated with an increased prevalence of COPD, particularly >20 years. Seventy-nine percent of persons ≥45 years-old with frequent shortness of breath (SOB) reported having or being at risk of COPD, reflecting disease burden. Conclusion: These data, representing nearly 18% of US adults, indicates those at high risk for COPD share many, but not all of the characteristics of persons diagnosed with the disease and demonstrates the value of the BRFSS as a tool to define lung health at a population level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Body mass index
  • Comorbidities
  • Dyspnea on exertion
  • Health impairment
  • Productive cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Undiagnosed COPD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Information Management
  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Leadership and Management


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