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PR- 352-10
August 12, 2010


Community Center Looks to Reduce Childhood Asthma Hospitalizations by 50 Percent Over the Next 5 Years

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today announced the opening of a new asthma walk-in center in East Harlem, where the rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations is the highest in the City. The new state-of-the-art center – an expansion of the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and a part of the City’s PlaNYC initiative – will aim to reduce childhood asthma hospitalizations by 50 percent over the next five years. The Mayor and Borough President were joined at the Harlem announcement by Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs, Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, State Senator José M. Serrano, Dr. Ben Ortiz from the Harlem Asthma Network, Center Director Dr. Betty Perez-Rivera, Janet Arroyo from the Manhattan Smoke-free Partnership and Acting Citywide Administrative Services Commissioner Donald P. Brosen.

“Anyone who struggles with asthma, or who has a child who does, knows just how scary and debilitating an asthma attack can be,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Every child in every community deserves a healthy start in life, and the opening of this cutting-edge resource center is one of the ways the City is working to make sure this happens for the children in East Harlem.”

“All too often, uncontrolled asthma keeps children out of school and adults out of work,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs.  “This new center will go a long way in helping East Harlem residents control their symptoms and learn how they can develop long term solutions for their homes.”

“In early 2007, I started a partnership with Mayor Bloomberg to turn into reality my vision for a state of the art asthma treatment center in a community known for having the highest asthma rate in the country,” said Borough President Stringer. “The opening of this center is an important milestone of my Go Green initiative, an incredible array of community members and environmental activists that have raised the bar for green living in Manhattan communities. Today, I am proud to stand with the Mayor and Commissioner Farley to announce that East Harlem will be now known for providing an effective and comprehensive model for addressing this chronic disease and giving the families of El Barrio the support they need and deserve.”

More than 25 percent of the children in East Harlem have asthma.  And East Harlem has the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in the City. In 2008, 11 of every 1,000 East Harlem children between the ages 14 and under were hospitalized.  In 2008, Borough President Scott Stringer and the Health Department’s East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office founded the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence to address this disparity. The new walk-in center will expand on that work and offer a number of asthma-related services, including on-site asthma assessments, individual and group asthma education, social support services, intensive one-on-one asthma counseling, linkage to services to rid homes of asthma-triggering pests and mold and referrals for medical care. The walk-in center will also include a library with educational materials and computers with internet access to help families learn the best strategies to manage asthma.

Over the last two years, the Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence has helped more than 1,200 children connect to caregivers, and 465 families have received home environmental services through the Center’s network of health care practices, integrated pest management groups and community partners.

“My colleagues and I are committed to working together with our communities in helping children and their families learn how to manage their asthma in their homes, at school and in their everyday lives,” said Speaker Quinn. “The expansion of the East Harlem Asthma Walk-in Center will further continue to provide those services in one of the highest need areas in the City. I want to thank everyone in the East Harlem community for their dedication to improving the lives and health of not only East Harlem residents but also bringing awareness to all New Yorkers.”

“As we continue to formulate strategies for improving air quality in a community that has long suffered disproportionately from air pollution, we welcome the walk-in center of the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence to the neighborhood as a breath of fresh air for the many families who need assistance managing and treating this condition,” said Senator José M. Serrano. “The Mayor’s Office has taken a comprehensive approach to combating asthma in our communities. As a supporter of the Mayor’s PlaNYC, which aims to reduce harmful pollutants from our air, I view this walk-in center as a reassuring indication that we are attacking this disease from all sides. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg, the New York City Health Department, and all those who helped make this much-needed center a reality for the residents of East Harlem.”

“While asthma is a chronic condition, we know that it can be controlled with the right home management and available effective treatments,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “The East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and its Walk-in Center will help families who have children with asthma get the education and care they need to manage their asthma well and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations and absences from work and school.”

“We are pleased to have educational resources and linkage to services all housed under one roof here in East Harlem,” said Dr. Betty Perez-Rivera, who will direct the day-to-day operations of the East Harlem Asthma Walk-in Center. Dr. Perez-Rivera serves on the Go Green East Harlem Steering Committee.

“Quitting smoking is a key action parents can take to protect their children’s lungs,” said Janet Arroyo, Manhattan Smoke-free Partnership. “Our smoking cessation program at the new East Harlem Walk-in Asthma Center will help parents quit smoking and reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, which in turn will greatly help reduce their children’s asthma triggers and episodes.”

“Communities have to come together to combat all the contributors to asthma-related hospitalizations, and our community has done just that,” said Dr. Ben Ortiz, Harlem Asthma Network. “This walk-in center will provide much-needed resources to families to help them manage their children’s illness effectively.”

The East Harlem Walk-in Asthma Center is one of the key initiatives of Borough President Stringer’s 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 has focused on five core areas: public health and healthy food, parks and open space, sustainable business, transportation, and green building.  The initiative is led by the Borough President and a steering committee of community, civic, business leaders, elected officials, public health officials and environmental advocates.

The walk-in center staff worked out of the East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office before the new space was completed. The $3.5 million project included $700,000 from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services provided site selection and project management services for the construction.  The new facility features:

  • A walk-in service to assess the asthma-related needs of children in East Harlem.
  • Ample space and a library for asthma education.
  • Social support services for children with asthma and their families.
  • Connection to intensive one-on-one asthma counseling for the sickest children
  • Linkage to free environmental control services that rid homes of asthma-triggering pests and mold.
  • Referrals to health care providers for medical needs.


Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti (Mayor)   (212) 788-2958

Carmen Boon (Borough President)   (212) 669-3882

Susan Craig/Celina De Leon (Health)   (212) 788-5290

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