Asthma is a condition which impacts the daily lives of 30 million Europeans and 300 million people globally. People with asthma may experience coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing among other ailments. According to the European Federation of Asthma and Allergy Associations, the global asthma prevalence could increase to 400 million people worldwide by 2025.
A 2021 Eurostat report on asthma rates found Finland on the top of the list, with 9% of people reporting to have asthma, followed by Germany and France (both at 8%). In contrast, only 2% of people in both Romania and Bulgaria reported having this disease. In addition to the burden of asthma on the lives of individuals and their families, it is asthma exacerbations that also impact health care systems and society due to their impact on work/school productivity and health care utilisation and costs.
Climate change triggering or worsening Asthma
Climate change highly affects the air we breathe by increasing the risk that air pollution, including ozone and particle pollution, will worsen. Increasing temperatures, causes warm air to form ground-level ozone, which can be one of the main components of smog, a powerful air pollutant. In turn, as ozone irritates the lungs, it is likely to trigger an asthma attack.
Likewise, hotter temperatures and drought are found to be important contributors to more frequent and intense wildfires as well as longer wildfire seasons. Wildfires generate smoke that deteriorates air quality, allowing tiny particles to reach far into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing asthma attacks.
Space data to the rescue
As climate change continues to pose the greatest challenge for the Union, the scientific community and healthcare industry are looking for novel ways to understand the complex interactions between air quality and respiratory health. Approaches include the use of Earth Observation data – both in-situ and optical by Copernicus.
The global pharmaceutical company Teva is investigating the correlation between wildfire air pollution and asthma outcomes with the aid of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
CAMS provides consistent information on the atmosphere anywhere in the world, which allows users to assess the past and predict the next few days. CAMS adds value to air quality and atmospheric composition observations which are taken from satellites as well as from sensors on the ground, in the oceans and in the air (known as in-situ). The work of CAMS scientists focuses on the main areas of air quality and atmospheric composition: solar radiation, the ozone layer and ultraviolet radiation, emissions and surface fluxes of pollutants and greenhouse gases, and climate forcing.
Teva pharmaceuticals is studying global data on wildfires provided by the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) of CAMS, as well as relevant air pollution parameters to better understand how Asthma patients are affected. The global pharmaceutical is correlating real-world data from its digital inhaler with Copernicus information in order to validate current known and hypothesized relationships between environment and patient outcome, as well as discover new ones. The studies have the potential to provide novel insights into our current understanding of asthma, offering the possibility to significantly advance patient care and well-being.
CAMS uses near-real-time observations of the location and intensity of active wildfires to estimate the emissions of pollutants. This is done through its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS).
“EUSPA is in charge of promoting the use of Copernicus data and services to new commercial and business users and helping create value-adding applications that benefit end users” says Justyna Redelkiewicz, the Head of Section Consumer and Environment at EUSPA. “‘By leveraging Copernicus’ comprehensive data on air quality, healthcare stakeholders can collaboratively engage in targeted efforts to address this critical issue and proactively promote public well-being.” concludes Redelkiewicz.
As Copernicus takes a pivotal step into the healthcare sector, the cooperation between EUSPA and Teva Pharmaceutics indicates a significant advancement in addressing the complex challenges posed by respiratory diseases, in particular in the context of Climate Change. With the potential to unlock breakthrough insights into asthma triggers through the analysis of Copernicus data on wildfires and air quality, this collaboration holds promise for the development of innovative healthcare solutions. As the healthcare industry embraces the wealth of information Copernicus offers, a new era of understanding and tackling health-related challenges is set to unfold.
To maximise knowledge about the EU Space Programme and its growing potential in the healthcare sector EUSPA participated in AUTOMA+ 2023, in Zurich, Switzerland between 25-26 September.
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