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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) causes airflow blockages and issues with breathing. Tobacco smoking is the main cause of COPD deaths, however environmental exposures also contribute to cases. Interior spaces can filter and ventilate air to reduce concentrations of pollution associated with COPD.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic respiratory disease that impacts the airways and other portions of the lung, leading to airflow blockage and issues with normal breathing. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and some severe asthma. COPD limits basic activities like walking, taking the stairs, the ability to work, and may lead to other health complications including confusion, memory loss, more emergency room visits, depression, and increased risk for other chronic diseases. Public education and awareness of COPD symptoms and earlier diagnosis with spirometry and treatment might slow additional lung damage, improve COPD symptoms, and reduce COPD-related disability and deaths.

Human Health Mechanism

COPD ultimately leads to a decreased volume of airflow through the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. One or more of the following mechanisms causes these obstructions: i) the airways and tiny air sacs in the lungs lose their ability to stretch and shrink back; ii) the walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed; iii) the walls of the airways become thick and inflamed; iv) the airways make more mucus than usual, which can clog them and block air flow.

Indicator Measurement

Data are available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) PLACES public dashboard and are collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is a state-based, telephone interview survey. BRFSS provides COPD prevalence data by modeling the percentage of adults who report ever having been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional that they had COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis.

Related Health Outcomes & Exposures

Asthma, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Physical Inactivity, Physical Distress, Mental Distress, PM2.5, Ozone, Traffic Proximity, Waste Proximity, Lack of Insurance, Regular Check-up, Wildfire


Click here for References
  1. COPD Data Source: CDC PLACES: COPD. Data year 2020. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Chronic Disease Indicator Definitions: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Published January 21, 2019. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  3. Health Effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Published April 11, 2022. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  4. CDC PLACES: Measure Definitions: Health Outcomes: COPD. Published May 19, 2023. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  5. Yang IA, Jenkins CR, Salvi SS. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in never-smokers: risk factors, pathogenesis, and implications for prevention and treatment. Lancet Respir Med. 2022;10(5):497-511. doi:10.1016/S2213-2600(21)00506-3