Who We Are

Who We Are


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The National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP), was developed in 1996 as a new healthcare initiative designed to increase awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) among the public and health care professionals and to encourage the use of  spirometry in the offices of clinicians in order to make an earlier diagnosis of COPD, and to monitor ongoing treatment.


The NLHEP initiative is directed to primary care providers, other health care providers, government officials, policy makers, health care agencies and patients. Many societies, including governmental agencies support NLHEP, and financial support for our organization comes from a wide range of sources, including unrestricted grants from other non-profit organizations, patient advocacy groups, private donors, along with unrestricted grants from the pharmaceutical and medical support industries.


To view a roster of our  Executive Committee please click here.


Brief History of the National Lung Health Education Program

Thomas L. Petty, MD

A planning conference in 1994 and a comprehensive workshop in 1995, sponsored by the Lung Division of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, preceded the launch of a new initiative called the National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP), described in “Building a National Strategy for the Prevention and Management and Research in COPD” (Petty TL, Weinman GG: JAMA 1997; 277:246-253). With Thomas L.  Petty as the founding chairman, NLHEP was incorporated in 1996 as a not-for-profit entity. In 2000, Dennis E. Doherty, MD, then Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, was named as co-chair. In January 2004, Dr. Petty became Chair Emeritus and Dr. Doherty took over as Chair of NLHEP.  In 2008, Dr. Brian Carlan became Chair.  The he executive committee, which includes representatives from several  collaborating and supporting professional, patient, and government groups, generally meets annually in person and ad hoc as needed.


Collaborative Model

Collaborative partners over the years have included the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), American Thoracic Society (ATS), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACPR), and American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, American Society of Internal Medicine, and Society of General Internal Medicine. Other organizations, including the National Emphysema Foundation, National Cancer Institute, National Emphysema/COPD Association, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

NLHEP interfaces with numerous segments of the primary care and specialty communities, other health professions involved in COPD, various government agencies, and educational and health care institutions, including managed care organizations. NLHEP is supportive of and complementary to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD), US COPD Coalition, and the International COPD Coalition.


Promote use of simple spirometry testing for the diagnosis and treatment of COPD

Our mission is to create awareness about COPD as a major health problem. Research shows that as many as 50% of those with COPD have not yet been diagnosed, even though they may be symptomatic. NLHEP promotes the use of in office  spirometry for the diagnosis and monitoring of disease (including response to therapy) through its motto “Test Your Lungs, Know Your Numbers,” (“Office Spirometry for Lung Health Assessment in Adults: A Consensus Statement from the National Lung Health Education Program” (Ferguson GT, et al, Chest 2000; 117:1146-1161). This document was recently updated and published (Ruppel et al, Respiratory Care 2018. 63:242-252).

NLHEP encouraged the development of simple to use, accurate, hand-held spirometers via its  Spirometer Review Process was developed in 2002. A  two-part document describes the device review process and includes a systematic check list of both required and optional features for a  office spirometer. (Sehoh RJ et al, Performance of a new screening spirometer at a community heath fair, Resp Care 2002; 47:1150-1157).

NLHEP has also developed a  COPD Awareness Poster Project to support the use of spirometry for those who can answer “yes” to any one of the following questions:

  • Do you now or have you ever smoked cigarettes, cigars or a pipe?
  • Do you have a chronic cough, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath?
  • If you cough, do you bring up mucus with your cough?
  • Have you ever been exposed to fumes that may have affected your lungs? (Click here to find out more about the COPD Awareness Poster Project)


Partnering with AARC in CME Seminars for Primary Care Practitioners

In 2000, NLHEP and AARC developed a strategic partnership designed to implement NLHEP goals and objectives at the grassroots level. Featuring a CME program for primary care. Assisted by pulmonary specialists who have attended “Train the Trainer” seminars, it is now possible to bring up-to-date information on COPD to primary care providers. For more information or help with planning a seminar on COPD for primary care, contact the NLHEP Executive Office.