COPD on the Air: A podcast on living-with and caring-for COPD in Uruguay

Dr Megan Wainwright, Honorary Research Associate in the Durham Department of Anthropology, introduces her latest podcast: COPD on the Air.

EPOC al Aire: Historias de la Enfermedad Pulmonar Obstructiva Cronica from Megan Wainwright on Vimeo.

The podcast “EPOC al Aire” ( COPD on the Air) was envisioned as a community-based research output following a three-year ethnographic research project on the topic of living-with and caring-for COPD in Uruguay, South America. The fieldwork included a broad range of methods and was multi-perspectival, thus including the perspectives and experiences of people with COPD, family members, carers, health professionals, healthcare administrators and policy makers. One of many methods employed was illness-narrative interviews. An emergent theme from patient and family participants was that COPD was an unknown and misunderstood disease which was both difficult to understand oneself and difficult to communicate to others. It was also clear from their narratives and further interviews and participant-observation that awareness of COPD among attending health professionals can be improved, as could access to an appropriate diagnosis.

It therefore seemed both appropriate and important to disseminate the findings of the illness-narrative interviews to a much wider audience and to do so through an accessible communication medium. During a five-week fieldwork trip to Uruguay in February 2014 I revisited participants, obtained consent and I began producing this podcast from recordings of illness-narrative interviews. Audio was considered a powerful medium because not only are radio and internet are highly used forms of communication in Uruguay, but also because COPD is a disease which changes the way people breathe. Hearing a person with COPD tell a story, and as such hearing their breath sounds and coughs, communicates the experience of the disease in a way that the written word alone cannot.

Part 1 of the podcast’s dissemination has involved sending the link to participants, health professionals, ministry of health employees and relevant professional and patient organizations in Uruguay and internationally. Phase 2 of its dissemination will involve pursuing the goal of having the podcast aired on local radio stations in Uruguay.

I hope the podcast achieves its aim of raising awareness about COPD through the key insights of people who live with its effects on a daily basis. Insights about the risks of inhaling smoke, the disabling effects of damaged lungs, the problem of misdiagnosis and lack of diagnostic tools, and the impact diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation can make in a person’s life.

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