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The European Respiratory Society – celebrating 20 years of success

2010 is a special year for lung health. It marks not only the 20th anniversary of the European Respiratory Society but has also been designated Year of the Lung. We take a look at the role of ERS to understand where the future lies

Prof Nikolaos M Siafakas MD, PhD
ERS President
Department of Thoracic Medicine,
University Hospital,
Medical School,
University of Crete,

Founded in 1990, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) is a not-for-profit, international medical organisation with over 10,000 members. It is the biggest society in Europe in its field. With members in over 120 countries, the ERS aims to alleviate suffering from respiratory disease and to promote lung health through research, knowledge sharing, medical and public education.
This year, the ERS celebrates its 20th anniversary. This important birthday coincides with the Year of the Lung, a campaign that aims to raise awareness about the importance of lung health, generate social and political support for preventing
and treating lung disease and increase public and private funding for lung research.

Uniting respiratory health professionals worldwide
The ERS was born to famous European parents: the Societas Europaea Physiologiae Clinicae Respoiratoriae (SEPCR), founded in Prague, Czech Republic, in 1966, and the Societas Europaean Pneumologica (SEP), founded in Belgirate, Italy, in 1981.
The merger of the two parent societies took place in London in 1990. This union brought together the basic scientists of SEPCR and the clinicians of SEP in a harmonious relationship, and is considered the driving force behind the success story of the ERS. Attendance at the ERS Annual Congress, the most prestigious gathering of respiratory health professionals in Europe to this day, reflects the magnitude of the merger: congress participation increased from its humble beginnings of around 3,000 to almost 20,000 at the Annual Congress in
Berlin to become the largest respiratory meeting in the world.
The 20th ERS Annual Congress in Barcelona is once again expected to attract just as many scientists and clinicians from all over the world to present excellent science and keep up
with the latest state-of-the-art developments in respiratory care.

High-impact publications
Throughout its 20-year history, the ERS has produced  publications that are central to the achievement of the society’s aims. The European Respiratory Journal (ERJ), the Society’s
official peer-reviewed journal, is a significant communication tool for the reporting of studies in basic science and clinical medicine. The ERJ has become one of the leading scientific journals in respiratory medicine, achieving an impact factor of 5.545.
In addition to the ERJ, the ERS also publishes the European Respiratory Review (ERR), Breathe and the European Respiratory Monograph (ERM). Published quarterly, the ERR presents state-of-the-art reviews, updates, editorials
and case reports in topical respiratory areas, with each issue focusing around a ‘theme of the month’. Another long-running publication, the ERM, has a clinical focus, with each issue providing a thorough overview of one specific area.
This publication has become very popular among ERS members.
The ERS‘s relatively young publication Breathe is the educational journal of the society. An unprecedented success when it launched in 2004, Breathe online receives a record of 150,000 hits a year and has become one of the ERS’s most
powerful educational tools.

Powerful advocacy and research
Beyond knowledge-sharing, education and publication of research, the ERS has also been significantly involved in respiratory issues at a more political and public level.
At an early stage, it became apparent that the society had a duty of involvement in the battle against global health threats such as cigarette smoking, environmental pollution and climate
change. The ERS has become one of the most influential societies in the world in public health issues. The society has assisted in the development of laws against tobacco smoking in Europe, and has helped form appropriate alliances to this
end, such as the Smoke Free Partnership. The ERS also lobbied successfully in the EU and achieved the inclusion of respiratory
diseases in the 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7), and has been able to garner support for postdoctoral research, through a joint ERS/Marie Curie Fellowship, co-funded by the
EU, and is now working on the FP8.
In addition, the ERS collaborates with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in particular in the fi eld of tuberculosis. The society also supports the Innovative
Medicine Initiative (IMI) project of the EU and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) in two programmes in respiratory medicine, with the aim of making drug development in COPD and asthma
more effective.

Excellent education: European Diploma in Adult Respiratory Medicine
The ERS established the Harmonisation of Education in Respiratory Medicine for European Specialists (HERMES), a project aiming to promote and standardise education for respiratory physicians in Europe. It developed a European core syllabus for the specialty and established a framework on
which individual countries can develop their curriculum
in respiratory medicine. Since 2008, the ERS has offered an unique European examination to respiratory physicians
designed to provide them with an international recognition of their qualifications. The examination for the European Diploma in Adult Respiratory Medicine has become a great success
marking a cornerstone in continuing medical education.

2010 and beyond
The Year of the Lung campaign was officially launched at the recent 40th Conference of the Inter national Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in Cancun, after the Forum of International Respiratory Societies decided unanimously to designate 2010 the Year of the Lung. Launching the Year of the Lung campaign at this particular moment, with TB cases continuing to rise, the ongoing threat of the H1N1 pandemic
and increasing fatalities due to pneumonia in children, not only enhances the incredible work already being done to address the important issues of lung health, but also mobilises new forces within the global health community and beyond. The Year of the Lung is led by seven respiratory societies. The ERS is responsible for all the Year of the Lung activities in Europe. Go to its website at
To mention just a few points, this involves raising awareness of the need for more funding into medical and lung science research in the EU through the European Parliament.
A major initiative will be an ERS conference on chronic  respiratory diseases and potential public health measures that will be attended by the European Health Ministers together with the Presidency of the European Union in October 2010.
The Year of the Lung 2010 also involves raising awareness for improving the environment and the ERS will be launching the Climate Change booklet on respiratory disease and climate
change. We will also be advocating strong and effective air quality legislation and we will be calling on the Council of Ministers and the Members of the European Parliament to amend the current Industrial Emissions Directive in a
way that ensures the health of citizens is best protected. Additionally, an air pollution booklet and a publication on the burden of lung diseases in Europe, The White Book II, will also be launched at the 20th ERS Annual Congress in Barcelona. Last but not least, hospitals and other health offices around the world will be offering lung function testing to the public during World Spirometry Day, on 14 October.
In the context of the European Union policy agenda, the ERS will produce a roadmap for respiratory research in 2010 and also a long-term vision on the future challenges the respiratory
care field is facing.
The ERS’s prime commitment in future remains the same: improvement of patient care in respiratory medicine and the promotion of education and lung health awareness.