Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a group of rare lung diseases often marked by scarring and inflammation that may make it difficult to complete everyday tasks, like walking up a flight of stairs.
Breathlessness like this isn’t uncommon for people affected by ILD. But because the symptom is so common, and because 86% of Americans aren’t aware of symptoms like breathlessness, it’s often confused for other conditions. As a result, it takes an average of three years minimum to receive a correct diagnosis – valuable time for a disease that’s progressive, which can lead to irreversible lung damage. Once diagnosed, average life expectancy is only 3-5 years.
Statistics like these highlight just how crucial disease awareness and early diagnosis are. To help achieve the goals outlined below, Boehringer Ingelheim introduced “Breathless,” a multi-year disease education initiative with spokesperson Bernie Williams – a Yankees legend and Latin Grammy nominee who lost his father to ILD in 2001.
To raise awareness of interstitial lung disease and encourage those experiencing its telltale symptoms to consult with their doctor, as early diagnosis and treatment are critical to managing ILD.
To provide support to the ILD community with educational resources and engaging ways to come together.
The language of music, coupled with powerful stories from real patients, has provided Boehringer Ingelheim with a meaningful way to work toward these goals and connect people diagnosed with ILD and their loved ones with valuable resources to help cope with this devastating disease.
Inspired by the success of past music-focused Breathless programming, including a virtual concert in 2020 and the Breathless Ballad Challenge in 2021, Boehringer Ingelheim considered how it could continue using music to support people affected by ILD and their caregivers, both groups that shoulder the emotional burden of this rare disease. Keeping in mind the universal power of music as part of the patient and caregiver journey, Tune In To Lung Health became the next chapter in the Breathless story—a program dedicated to exploring how music and breath may help people cope with the physical, mental, and emotional burden of ILD.
Tune In To Lung Health introduced a series of digital campaign resources like guided breathing and vocal exercise videos led by celebrity vocal coach Eric Vetro, streaming playlists, and disease education content featuring interviews with Bernie Williams and Eric. In addition to including Bernie and Eric as spokespeople, Tune In To Lung Health also introduced three women personally affected by ILD who speak candidly about how music and breathing have helped them cope.
For one of these women, who had been an avid performer before she was diagnosed with ILD, listening to music brings her peace as she navigates the physical limitations of her disease. “Music has played an important part in my life, both as a performer and as a listener. I truly believe that music can be healing and calming, things that are important as we deal with a chronic disease,” she says of her love for music.
And for the other two women, a sibling patient/caregiver duo, music is a bonding experience. In discussion with Eric, this caregiver recalls some of the more difficult moments of her sister’s ILD diagnosis, and how music has helped her offer support when words were not enough: “There were times when [my sister] was really sick and couldn't really get around, I would tell her to just get into bed and I would lay right next to her, and I would sing to her.”
Tune In To Lung Health helped introduce these stories, which paint a picture of just how powerful music can be, to a national audience during Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month – a key moment in time for the community. While earned media opportunities with SiriusXM, ESPN Radio, and Good Day New York allowed for a strong and impactful launch, Boehringer Ingelheim recognized an opportunity to amplify messaging and extend these ILD patient perspectives via an integrated communications approach including a satellite media tour, MAT release, digital advertisement, and live events.
Celebrity talent has no doubt been critical to the success of Breathless and Tune In To Lung Health, but an unwavering commitment to placing the experience of the ILD community at the core of our programming is what has truly propelled the campaign to continue to evolve and engage the community year after year.