Healthy Lungs for Life Durban events

Pan African Thoracic Society Healthy Lungs for Life feedback from Durban, South Africa, April 2018.

Durban, South Africa has seen a plethora of respiratory health focused meetings take place this April.

The joint Congress between the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS) and the South African Thoracic Society (SATS) entitled “Siza iAfrika iPhefumule: Help Africa Breathe” took place from the 12th–15th April. This was an exciting event for PATS that brought together health professionals from many African countries to address the challenges for child and adult lung health on the continent. Respiratory disease is a major cause of death, disability and morbidity in Africa, where there is a double burden of infectious diseases including pneumonia or tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The congress offered the opportunity to critically discuss these challenges and to work together to strengthen initiatives to improve care, build capacity, strengthen research, training and advocacy for better lung health in Africa.

Immediately following the PATS/SATS Congress, 11 African countries were represented by 14 partners at the The International Multidisciplinary Programme to Address Lung Health and TB in Africa “IMPALA” meeting also in Durban on 15th–20th April. This four-year collaborative programme funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research has established an Africa-focused NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Lung Health and Tuberculosis (TB) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) that will generate new scientific knowledge and implementable solutions for these high burden, under-funded and under-researched health problems.

These events have presented the perfect focus for lung health advocacy in our communities alongside these events. We are delighted to report 7 Health Lungs for Life free spirometry testing events over the 10 days in and around the communities of Durban which were funded and supported by the PATS Spirometry program.

Each of the 7 Healthy Lungs for Life events included free spirometry testing for the general public. Events were held in various venues in and around Durban including the hotels in which congress delegates were staying as well as outside pharmacies and in shopping centres around the city. Our technician team of 4 tested 313 people in 7 days, at the same time adding data to the Paediatric and Adult Spirometry (PAAS) Study which is collecting lung function data in healthy South Africans to generate much needed local reference values.


Another positive outcome of the Durban meetings was that 10 IMPALA partners from Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda were presented with ERS/ELF donated spirometry equipment to take back with them for use in their research clinics. Lindsay Zurba of Spirometry Training Services Africa said “This equipment is essential to diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect breathing. The loaning of this equipment by PATS and LSTM to these in-country partners will have a hugely positive impact on their research objectives, and the treatment received by those that visit their clinics”.

One of the specific aims of PATS is the promotion of education and training initiatives to strengthen respiratory health across Africa. In line with this, the Durban respiratory week saw the launch of the PATS/IMPALA international standard foundational spirometry training programme available for all Africans working in any setting. The first courses were piloted in Uganda and Ethiopia in 2017.

The spirometry training takes a minimum of 2 months to complete and has 3 stages which include: online self-study, three days of face-to-face training and a portfolio of evidence workbook. The training materials are available for free online at

Africa is a continent of challenges. It is also a continent of positive change. There are yet many rivers to cross, but we are making progress together. Thank you to each and every person and organisation who has worked together to create change. We are seeing it now unfold before our eyes. Respiratory health and advocacy is on the rise in Africa!