Interview with Dr Catia Cilloniz, coordinator of PneumoLight campaign

This month we hear from Dr Catia Cilloniz, Associate Professor at the University of Barcelona and coordinator of the Worldwide Pneumonia Awareness Campaign – Pneumolight. Catia talks about why pneumonia awareness is so important and how we can get involved.

Can you please tell us a bit about you and your background?

I am a mother of twin boys, passionate about archeology and ancient cultures. I am an Associate Professor at the University of Barcelona, I have conducted research on the causes and development of pneumonia for over 14 years, starting with my PhD in Medicine at the University of Barcelona on the microbial causes of pneumonia. I am currently the coordinator of the Worldwide Pneumonia Awareness Campaign – Pneumolight, and I organised the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day. I have authored 157 scientific publications and I have received the Extraordinary Doctoral Award from the University of Barcelona and the Fellow of the European Respiratory Society (FERS) award, and the Mentor award from the Spanish Society of Pneumology.

How are you involved in ERS/ELF? Why do you think it is important to volunteer with ELF?

As a member of ERS I was asked to volunteer to support ELF in translations from English to Spanish and I found it very important to collaborate because the work of ELF is very important in supporting patients and patient associations. ELF’s mission to educate patients about lung health and disease is very important to me. I also connected with ELF because I am the President of the Association for Support and Information for Relatives and Patients with Pneumonia (NEUMOAI), and it was through my interest to seek support for our association that we joined ELF. For me it is very important to reach all people and educate about pneumonia, a totally preventable disease.

You work extensively on pneumonia awareness why is it so important to raise awareness about pneumonia? And what do we need to know about pneumonia?

Unfortunately, despite advances in its diagnosis and prevention, pneumonia is still very common, with high death rates worldwide. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2019, pneumonia caused 2.5 million deaths that year. Adults over 70 and children under 5 are the most at risk.

Globally, there is a general lack of knowledge about pneumonia and, particularly, of its impact on the health of a population. There is a widespread misconception that pneumonia affects only specific, vulnerable people. In some people, pneumonia may only cause a few clinical symptoms, but in others it may affect the whole body, causing respiratory failure, problems in multiple organs and death. People with pneumonia are 4 times more likely to have issues with their heart, such as heart attacks or abnormal heartbeat which can lead to death. This remains a higher risk for up to 10 years after having pneumonia.

Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness of the severity of pneumonia and its consequences, there is a very low use of influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. This is why education is essential to reduce the incidence of pneumonia.

What projects are you working on to promote awareness of pneumonia? And can you please tell us a bit about these?

Education and awareness are important in the fight against pneumonia. Currently, I am working in two main projects to raise pneumonia awareness: The Worldwide Pneumonia Awareness Campaign – Pneumolight, and the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day.

In 2020 I launched the Pneumolight campaign. This is a 5-year non-profit collaborative project (2020-2024) created to increase the visibility of pneumonia and raise awareness of this disease. The project has the support of the Every Breath Counts Coalition and 28 organizations and Scientific Societies globally. The main objective of our campaign in 2020 was to give visibility to pneumonia and mark World Pneumonia Day (12 November). For this reason we decided to illuminate, in blue, iconic monuments worldwide. ‘We achieved the illumination of 252 iconic monuments across 52 countries globally. With this event we gave visibility to World Pneumonia Day and marked the importance of this special date:

The Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day is a call to action on the major problems related to pneumonia with the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. The meeting combined high-level speeches along with panel presentations from the researchers most involved in this field. The main objective of this conference was to present the main problems of pneumonia worldwide, from the point of view of the main organisation that fights against pneumonia. The conference was open to everyone.

In April of this year, 2021, our Pneumonia Campaign is an impact campaign that aims to promote educational materials about pneumonia through social networks. We have created two educational videos and 6 infographics in 8 languages (French, Spanish, English, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese) about pneumonia.

To give more visibility to our educational materials, we launched a challenge on social networks; this challenge consisted in asking people to post a photo using a mask that we created with the logo “Stop Pneumonia” on their social networks; this brought attention to our educational materials that we shared on social networks. You can access these resources below: