Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Borough President Scott Stringer today announced the creation of a new facility in East Harlem that will improve treatment of asthma, the most pressing public health problem in the neighborhood. The new East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence will be placed in a storefront location, train medical providers in the latest and most effective treatments and medications, and help reduce exposure to the environmental triggers that exacerbate asthma. The Center will ensure that children with asthma lead full, healthy, productive lives. PlaNYC, the Mayor’s long-term sustainability plan, aims to give New York City the cleanest air of any City in America by reducing the harmful pollutants that decrease lung function and aggravate asthma. Together with the implementation of PlaNYC, the establishment of the new asthma center will provide a cleaner and safer environment for East Harlem families. At the announcement, held at P.S. 57 in East Harlem, Borough President Stringer also launched his "Go Green East Harlem" initiative.
"East Harlem has the highest asthma rate in the city. This is a serious problem and it’s something that we’ve been working with Congressman Rangel, Borough President Stringer and Council Member Mark-Viverito to address," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The asthma rate among our City’s children is unacceptably high and the Center of Excellence and the PlaNYC agenda will take steps that we know will reduce it."
"With the resources of this great city, no child’s place of birth should determine whether they suffer from asthma," said Borough President Stringer. "The East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence will set the bar for comprehensive coordinated services and provide the children of El Barrio with the support they need and deserve. This neighborhood wants a better neighborhood – one with green streets, green markets and green buildings and together we are going to make those wants a reality."
"Only through collective efforts will we succeed in building a sustainable community in which all of our families and our children can live healthy lives," said Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I commend the Mayor’s visionary PlaNYC 2030 agenda and Borough President Stringer's Go Green East Harlem Initiative. I am committed to adding the efforts my office has engaged in to build a greener East Harlem to ensure our potential as a model community is fulfilled."
"The young people of East Harlem deserve to live free from asthma," said State Senator Jose M. Serrano. "This disease, which disproportionately affects our community, has diminished our quality of life – resulting in everything from missed school and work days, to severe health problems. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC agenda which protects our children from this disease."
"This is a perfect example of leadership coming together to achieve a greener, healthier community," said WE ACT for Environmental Justice Executive Director Peggy Shepard. "Mayor Bloomberg’s support of a comprehensive asthma program and Scott Stringer’s initiative to foster greener development to achieve a healthy community combine to be a win for East Harlem."
"The fight against asthma can only be won through community partnerships aimed at reducing exposure to indoor and outdoor triggers and sustained use of controller medications," said Louise Vetter, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the City of New York. "We commend Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Stringer, Councilmember Viverito and the East Harlem community for investing in this significant effort to give people with asthma the tools they need to better control their disease and prevent unnecessary emergency room visits."
The proposal from Manhattan Borough President Stringer for the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence builds on the work of the Health Department’s recently created Harlem Asthma Network. The Network is composed of medical centers, school health programs, day care asthma programs, community-based home visiting programs and managed care organizations. While much more needs to done, the City has made progress with the problem of asthma. City schools have implemented an automated health records system that has helped to identify 50,000 children with asthma so they can get the preventative care they need to avoid emergency room visits and hospitalizations. There were 2,000 fewer asthma-related pediatric emergency room visits last year compared to the year before. The new East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence, with the cooperation of Manhattan Borough President Stringer and others, will build on this foundation and further reduce the rate of asthma.
To accomplish the goal of allowing children with asthma to lead full, healthy, productive lives the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence aims to reduce asthma hospitalizations by 50% by 2010 – from 12 hospitalizations per 1,000 children to six hospitalizations per 1,000 children. The East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence will accomplish this goal by increasing the number of children who have appropriate medications prescribed, increasing the number of children who will receive assistance to address home environmental triggers, increasing the number of hospitalized children who receive asthma counseling services, and working to reduce the causes of asthma.
The pollutant PM2.5, or soot, is the most dangerous of the six criteria pollutants tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its small size lets it drift deeper into the lungs, where it can cause inflammation and other damage. PM2.5 is a byproduct of burning fuel in trucks and buses, power plants, and boilers. New York City does not meet EPA standards for ozone or PM2.5. Even as the city’s air has improved, incidences of respiratory and heart diseases that scientists have linked to PM2.5 continue to rise.
The new East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence will implement the following programming:
- Establish a Network of Excellence.
The Center will convene key asthma providers from clinical settings, schools, insurers, community home-visiting programs and others to provide excellence in care and optimal integration of services across programs.
- Establish a walk-in center for asthma screening, information and referral services.
The Center will establish a walk-in service for individuals or family members interested in being screened for asthma, who have questions about their asthma, or are in need of referrals for healthcare, health insurance or other services related to asthma management. Trained healthcare personnel will be located on-site and equipped with peak-flow meters and other screening tools to assess whether an individual may have asthma.
- Train medical providers.
The Center will provide training to medical providers to increase routine severity assessments and increase treatment with inhaled corticosteroids for persistent asthma.
- Expand case management services.
The Center will oversee the training and deployment of asthma counselors to identify children with poorly controlled asthma. Asthma counselors were shown to be effective in a recent NIH-funded National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study.
- Reduce exposures to environmental triggers.
The Center will strengthen integrated pest management to address cockroaches and other pests, reduce exposure to tobacco smoke and remove excessive moisture and mold.
- Provide community education.
The Center will train and deploy community health educators to provide asthma education to patients, families, and community members in clinics, schools, day care centers and other community sites.
- Monitor progress.
The Center will establish a community-wide data collection and evaluation system to monitor service delivery and progress toward program goals.
At the announcement Borough President Stringer also launched Go Green East Harlem, a collaborative community based initiative aimed at breaking the pattern of harmful environmental conditions that have been part of East Harlem’s history for decades. The Go Green initiative will focus on addressing six core problem areas: public health and asthma, parks and open space, sustainable business, farmers markets and healthy eating, green building, and transportation. Go Green will seek community improvements through neighborhood partnerships and programs, legislative change, policy reform and the leveraging of collective resources. The initiative will be led by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and a steering committee of community, civic, business leaders, elected officials, public health officials, environmental advocates and others. The first of its kind effort will be a landmark model for green living in East Harlem and New York City as a whole.