14 Dec 2016

Members of the FRESH AIR team visited Crete in summer 2016 to carry out research on chronic respiratory diseases on the island. They were joined by their local colleagues from the Public Health department of the University of Crete.

Crete has approximately 620,000 inhabitants and is the most populous island of Greece. Half of the population lives in rural areas. In Crete, the incidence of chronic respiratory diseases is increasing and local healthcare professionals are finding the situation harder to manage.

The main health care provision in rural areas is delivered by primary care physicians.  The FRESH AIR team visited several general practices in inland rural areas, making contact with healthcare professionals, pharmacists, local communities, heads of municipalities and religious leaders. They observed that a high number of people suffer from chronic cough, shortness of breath and breathing problems.

Preliminary data show that while primary care physicians on the island are familiar with the issues and have the right skills to treat them, the financial crisis which has affected Greece in recent years has limited access to resources. There are staff shortages and limited diagnostic tools, including spirometers.  People with lung conditions sometimes find it difficult to pay for medications. One of the GPs has established a ‘social pharmacy’, in which he recycled unused medications, providing them to those who could not afford them.  

The data from this research trip are being analysed. The full story will be described in a future scientific paper.


Janwillem Kocks