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Healthy Lungs for Life encourages Londoners to think about the air they breathe during campaign kick-off

Healthy Lungs for Life encourages Londoners to think about the air they breathe during campaign kick-off

Last month we launched the Healthy Lungs for Life 2016/17 campaign at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in London.

With air pollution and its effect on our health still very much a concern worldwide, the campaign has returned to the theme of ‘breathe clean air’ – encouraging people to think about the air that they are breathing in at home, at work and outdoors and the steps they can take to protect themselves.

Trafalgar Square

To launch the campaign, we set up three ‘breathe clean air’ bubbles on Trafalgar Square on 2 and 3 September. These giant domes were open for members of the public to come inside and learn about air pollution and lung health.

As part of the event, volunteer nurses and technicians from ERS offered free lung function tests. The aim of this was to encourage people to engage with their lung health more, as well as to raise awareness of spirometry as a simple, quick test that is available should anyone have concerns.

Doctors were also on hand to offer advice to people with concerns about their lung health, as well as to encourage people to quit smoking and talk about specific services that might be available.

In total, our team performed spirometry tests on 1,085 people across the two days.

The British Lung Foundation joined us on Trafalgar Square to give out free carbon monoxide tests and information on lung health and air pollution.

Our ‘Air Pollution Pop’ game, a fun and interactive way to learn about the different types of pollutants, was available for people to play on iPads while they waited for a test. Play the game online.

We also partnered with the London Sustainability Exchange (LSx), which educates local people about air pollution and monitoring, on a poster competition for schoolchildren. ERS and ELF leadership selected the winning posters, produced as part of LSx’s Cleaner Air 4 Schools Project, and the children who created them came along to the opening of the event see their posters on display on Trafalgar Square.

Coverage in the media

The high-profile location of our event, coupled with the array of interesting research on air pollution and lung health being presented at this year’s Congress attracted a great deal of media coverage.

Members of ERS and ELF leadership appeared on a variety of national, local and international TV, radio and newspapers to talk about the campaign and the research.

One story which was particularly popular within the media was the ‘Monopoly board’ of London’s emissions, as mapped by scientists at VITO in Belgium for the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign.

VITO researchers brought the board to Trafalgar Square and were happy to talk to members of the public about their findings and how air pollution is mapped. View the board online.

Healthy Lungs for Life rolls out across London

As London is such a large city with a diverse population, we were keen to take the campaign beyond the central Trafalgar Square location. Together with six of the London boroughs, we were able to take one of our ‘breathe clean air’ bubbles on a tour of the city, reaching as many people as possible.

On 4 September, we joined Waltham Forest for the afternoon at the Leytonstone Get Together, where we were mostly visited by local families.

Following this, on 6 September we set up the bubble on Canada Square in Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, and offered lung function testing to local workers from early in the morning until after work.

We then brought the bubble to just outside Kings Cross and St Pancras stations on 7 September so that commuters and local residents from Camden could get their lungs tested and find out more about air pollution.

Next, the bubble moved to the On Blackheath festival in Lewisham on 10 and 11 September, where revellers could come and learn more about their lungs in between watching bands and enjoying the food stands.

For World Car Free Day on 22 September, the bubble was on Islington Green. Children from local primary schools came out for hour-long sessions, where they got lung tests, played games and learned more about air pollution and active travel.

Finally, we took the bubble to Acton Market on 23 September. Many residents came along to get lung function tests and ask our doctors for advice about their lungs, including a local facility for older people.

What next?

We need you to help us keep the campaign moving around the world.

Could you hold a lung function testing or public information event in your local area?

Find out more about how you can hold an event, and the different resources we have prepared in a range of languages on the Healthy Lungs for Life website