City Council To Tackle Growing Asthma Problem
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller joined Health Committee members at a press conference to announce the first meeting of the City Council’s Asthma Task Force and their intention to release a comprehensive, strategic plan by next May to combat the current rising trend of asthma rates in the city.
"There is so much that we still do not know about asthma, except that it is a growing problem," said Speaker Miller. "A recent study found that one of every four children in Central Harlem is afflicted with asthma — a truly astonishing number, especially when you consider that the rates of asthma among children and adults in more affluent communities is nowhere near as high."
The diverse group of individuals, ranging from doctors, nurses, healthcare experts and advocates, plans to assist the City Council in developing legislative action, public policy and funding priorities for the prevention and management of childhood asthma in high-risk neighborhoods across the City.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national asthma rate has doubled in the last 20 years, with six percent of all Americans having asthma. A recent study found that the asthma rates in the South Bronx and Central Harlem are some of the highest in the country. Other studies have shown a correlation between low air quality and respiratory diseases. Several bills pending in the State Legislature serve to in-crease awareness and prevention, and the negative community impacts of environmental hazards throughout the City.
The members and Task Force are calling on Governor George Pataki to address the asthma epidemic through legislative action, such as reduced fuel emissions control and a concentrated effort to decrease the content of sulfur in fuels. Truck traffic in residential communities, improving health education in city schools and decent, affordable housing in pockets of communities where asthma rates continue to increase is vital, say the members.
Asthma is a chronic allergy ailment marked by wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and tightness of the chest. It accounts for almost $13 billion in health care costs each year.
Said Miller: "Our city is facing a crisis, particularly in some of our poorest neighborhoods. We need to do more than just measure this disease; we must treat it with dollars, proactive policy action and education."