When Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation merged in 2020 to become a partnership it was a huge milestone for the charities. It gave us a more united voice when advocating and campaigning for people with asthma and other lung conditions and enabled our helpline teams to expand their knowledge of various lung conditions to help provide more comprehensive advice for our beneficiaries. Though we didn’t know it then, this couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
Less than three months after the merger, the country was ordered to lock down to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and things became challenging to say the least. I’ve written before about the challenges we faced: a drop in income, a rise in demand, more anxiety among beneficiaries and supporters. These are probably familiar to charities up and down the country but were made all the more tricky for us as we found our feet through the recent merger.
The pandemic firmly placed lung disease at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s shown, to even more people, how terrifying it can be to fight for breath and with the emergence of Long Covid there are more people living with the long-term impact of damaged lungs. But even with the nation more acutely aware of lung disease, the sad fact is that people living lung conditions continue to get a raw deal compared to people with many other diseases.
The state of respiratory services in the UK is a national shame
The government has been dragging its heels on lung health for years, and if a respiratory health pandemic hasn’t prompted firm, national action, then what will?
The picture is grim. The UK has the worst death rates for lung health in the whole of Europe bar Turkey, with lung disease the third biggest killer in the UK. This is compounded by shocking health inequalities which mean people in the poorest neighbourhoods are seven times more likely to die of a lung disease than those in the richest.
And things are getting worse. Many people are struggling to get a definitive diagnosis and access basic care, and environmental issues like air pollution are continuing to put many more people at risk of potentially fatal lung conditions. With the government promising to ‘level up’ the country, the NHS soon to refresh its long-term plan and charities increasingly left to plug the gaps in the public sector, there has never been a better time for us to step up to the plate and make sure people with lung disease get the attention, care and support that they so desperately need and deserve.
Now is the time for change
We know that the problems at play here are wide-ranging and complex and that changing the landscape of respiratory services won’t be achieved overnight. But we need to be bold and we need to be ambitious if we’re going to achieve our vision of a world where everyone has healthy lungs.
A bold vision needs a bold brand behind it. We’ve worked with more than a thousand people with lung conditions, our supporters and staff to create the new Asthma + Lung UK brand. The brand has been created in partnership with Pentagram design consultancy and uses bright colours and striking imagery to create a sense of urgency and optimism. Our new logo is a plus symbol, which represents the coming together of the two leading lung charities with a nod to the medical cross.
We hope that this new visual identity – along with new brand values which include courage, pushing for better and working as one – will play a part in drawing attention to the changes that need to be made amongst policymakers, funders and researchers to put lung health on the same footing as other major illnesses. We also hope our new strategy, Fighting For Breath, will provide stronger support for our beneficiaries, who will now navigate our helpline, support groups, website and campaigning work more easily as a charity with a single brand rather than a single charity operating with two brands.
What we hope to achieve with this new strategy and rebrand reaches far beyond a new name and a new logo. It’s about changing how the country sees lung disease and the people living with the daily realities of it. This is a marathon not a sprint, but we’ve fired the starting gun this week with a new strategy revealing the current status of the nation’s lung health and setting ambitious goals for the future, a compelling media story on the UK’s dismal record on lung health, and with plans for advertising spanning digital platforms, radio and billboards. This is just the beginning of Asthma + Lung UK and the new powerful voice it’s given us to speak up for people with lung conditions. We’ll make sure to use this voice to make an even bigger difference to their lives.
Sarah Woolnough is CEO of Asthma + Lung UK