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Pharmacists in the steps of Cochrane

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This Sunday, 25 November, marks the end of the two-week “Love your lungs” campaign in Wales, in which people have had the opportunity to visit their local pharmacy for an assessment of their respiratory health with advice on how to improve it.

Because of its economic and industrial heritage, Wales has a high incidence of lung disease, and this recent pharmacy campaign stands in a long tradition of concern by health professionals for lung health in Wales.

During the early 1950s, Archie Cochrane, whose name lives on in The Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a pioneering epidemiological study of lung disease in two South Wales mining valleys, the Rhondda Fach and the Aberdare Valley. He investigated whether or not there was a causative relationship between tuberculosis and the development of simple pneumoconiosis into the much more serious condition of progressive massive fibrosis (PMF).

The study was a pioneering one in that Cochrane aimed to x-ray the entire adult population over the age of 15 years in these two valleys. Thanks to an energetic and dedicated survey team, and with the help of the South Wales Miners’ Federation, he achieved a remarkable response rate of more than 95 per cent.

Although the outcome in terms of the initial research question was never really clear, the study was a classic in that it provided a total picture of the health of the community at that particular point in time.

Cochrane went on to study the impact of dust on these lung conditions as evidence was growing that this was the primary determinant. The coal mining industry then introduced new measures to control dust and a regular screening programme for miners.

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