RHA Announces Local Lung Disease Research Awards

RHA Announces Local Lung Disease Research Awards

We recently selected our 2018 research grant awardees! These Chicago-based researchers were granted funding for their research in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and lung cancer.

Catherine Bonham, M.D., from the University of Chicago Medicine received RHA’s 2018 Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) research award. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a type of lung disease in which the lungs are scarred (also known as fibrosis) for an unknown reason. Dr. Bonham received a grant for her research project, “T Cells in Idiopathic Fibrosis Patients.” Through this research, Dr. Bonham seeks to pinpoint problems in T cells of IPF patients that can be targeted with existing medications used for fighting cancer. This is an innovative concept in the field of lung fibrosis.

RHA also awarded a Lung Cancer research award to Guofei Zhou, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine for his research project, “Targeting PDLIM5 for Lung Cancer.” Dr. Zhou is researching a new target (PDLIM5) for lung cancer drug discovery that may be capable of inhibiting lung cancer development. The results from Dr. Zhou’s study will provide insights into new therapeutic strategies including new drugs to treat lung cancer. We were impressed by the potential for Dr. Zhou’s research to be applied into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes, which closely aligns with the mission of RHA.

We expect this award will make a positive impact on Dr. Bonham and Dr. Zhou’s future research efforts. RHA looks forward to the advances these researchers will make in IPF and lung cancer.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) funds groundbreaking lung disease research at major research institutions located in Chicago. These grants are designed to aid local scientists and investigators with generating the preliminary data necessary to compete for future federal funding. RHA’s research review committee seeks innovative studies into the causes, mechanisms, and treatments of a specific lung disease, including pilot and feasibility studies for disease investigation and development and testing of new methodologies and models.

IEPA Takes Public Comment on Volkswagen Settlement Spending Amidst Pressure from RHA, Partners

IEPA Takes Public Comment on Volkswagen Settlement Spending Amidst Pressure from RHA, Partners

At the end of May, RHA, our clean air advocates and partner organizations rallied together at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago to demand that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) use funds received in the Volkswagen diesel settlement to adopt the best clean vehicle spending plan possible. Held by the IEPA, this open meeting was the direct result of long-standing efforts by RHA and our partners to pressure the IEPA to take public comment.

The IEPA received nearly $109 million from the Volkswagen settlement after it was discovered that Volkswagen had installed software into its vehicles that masked the true level of emissions produced during emissions testing, thereby allowing U.S. diesel vehicles to emit up to 40 times the legally allowable level of pollution.

Money from this settlement was meant to fund clean vehicle projects that eliminate air pollution and prevent lung damage. However, IEPA’s draft plan for how to use this money was created in private meetings with business groups—without public input. The business groups pushed to cut emissions from trains, ferries and tugboats rather than on vehicles, which contribute more to air pollution and are central to the Volkswagen issue. As such, the plan largely reinforced investment in polluting fossil fuel use, prolonging smog and worsening global warming.

RHA, our advocates and our partner organizations pressured IEPA to take public comment on the plan—just like several other states that received Volkswagen settlement funds. The advocacy efforts eventually led to coverage in multiple media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times and Chicago Tonight. The Illinois Senate passed a bill that would force the IEPA to hold meetings and convene a task force to propose priorities for where and how to spend the money. Ultimately, a compromise plan was created that demanded that IEPA host open meetings in Springfield, East St. Louis and Chicago.

At the Chicago meeting on May 30, we called for cleaner, zero-emission, 100% electric transit vehicles and charging infrastructure. RHA hopes to ensure that the cleanest available technology solutions are used today and we continue moving toward zero-emission technology and electric vehicles.

Because of the efforts of RHA, our advocates and our partner organizations, IEPA is now much closer to using the funds to help reduce air pollution.

Respiratory Health Association Statement Applauding Illinois’s Adoption of Tobacco 21

Respiratory Health Association Statement Applauding Illinois’s Adoption of Tobacco 21

Respiratory Health Association congratulates the Illinois General Assembly on the passage of statewide “Tobacco 21” legislation raising the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21. With the enactment of this legislation, Illinois becomes the sixth state in the U.S. to adopt a Tobacco 21 law.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work has been to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Growing support for Tobacco 21 had previously led to twenty-five communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws covered approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools.

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits. The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

“We estimate statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save $2 billion in future healthcare costs. This doesn’t even include savings in lost productivity costs, which could be nearly as much,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country. By passing Tobacco 21 now, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of that innovative policy by further protecting our youth from the harmful impact of tobacco.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

Her Mother’s Memory Pushes Melanie to the Finish

Two women smiling

Melanie with her mother

Melanie Santarelli ran the Chicago marathon when she was 10 weeks pregnant. 

The accomplishment speaks to a toughness that Melanie learned from her own mother, Theresa, whose battle with cancer spurred Melanie to begin running. 

At 47, doctors diagnosed Theresa with stage four squamous cell cancer of unknown primary. Squamous cell lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of all lung cancers. After ruling other cancers out, doctors strongly suspected lung cancer. Theresa was a smoker for many years although she quit several years earlier on her 40th birthday. 

Melanie recalls her mother as healthy and active, and the cancer diagnosis came as a shock. 

“You think you’ve quit,” Melanie says, “You don’t realize that these effects carry with you even if you change the behavior. The body just doesn’t turn around like that.” 

Despite the diagnosis, Theresa continued her work as a family and child therapist, working long hours to help families in crisis. Melanie recalls that despite a mentally and emotionally demanding job, her mother always made time for her family. 

Theresa endured rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, always putting her family ahead of herself. She experienced terrible pain as the cancer spread and hindered her ability to walk. 

After three years of struggling, Theresa passed away, just four months before Melanie’s wedding. 

“She was and is an absolute inspiration,” Melanie says, “She never wanted to give up.” 

Woman with stroller and toddler running

Melanie running with her children

Melanie took up running as a way to process the loss. Theresa was a sprinter, and Melanie felt connected to her as she ran up and down Chicago’s lakefront. 

This year Melanie will run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team. The funds raised benefit the Association’s work to advance lung cancer research and help people quit smoking. 

Though this is her third marathon, Melanie continues to set the bar higher for herself and hopes to finish with a 4:20 time. During her most difficult training sessions, the memory of Theresa’s determination pushes her toward the finish. 

“The training is harder than the marathon,” Melanie explains. “The marathon is the reward at the end. If you can get the through the training, you can get through anything. That’s the mental toughness.” 

Now a mother herself, Melanie feels closer to her mother than ever. Whenever she runs, she mentally checks in with her mom and updates her on her life. 

“She gave me this body, and I’m able to do this because of her. She’s my motivator and my strength.” 

To support Melanie Santarelli and lung cancer research, donate to her fundraising campaign.

Illinois Passes New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Legislation Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

May 25, 2018

Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Illinois Passes New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Legislation Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

CHICAGO – Illinois schools are one step closer to creating a safer environment for students living with asthma. Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) passed the Illinois House on Friday, May 25. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously in April.

Since 2001, Illinois students have been allowed to carry asthma medications in school. SB 3015 addresses asthma emergencies that occur when a family is unable to afford a child’s rescue medication, when those medications are left at home, when they run out or are simply unattainable.

Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) improves access to life-saving medication by allowing schools to stock ‘undesignated’ asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to administer the medication at the first signs of respiratory distress. This legislation builds on a 2014 Illinois law allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors to protect those who may experience a severe allergy in school.

Across Illinois, more than 330,000 children have reported asthma; however, fewer than twenty-five percent of those children have their asthma under proper control. That means three out of four kids living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

Children from minority and low-income households are even more likely to face barriers in access to medication and other asthma management resources, which in turn can lead to poorly controlled asthma and emergency department visits. Indeed, emergency department visits for asthma in Illinois occur among African American children at nearly six times the rate of visits by White children.

“The current rules allowing students to self-carry and self-administer asthma medications are good first steps,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “The new legislation, which allows schools to stock asthma rescue medication, builds on existing school policies to create a safer environment for all.”

“Asthma attacks can occur without warning and because of this, children with asthma should always have access to asthma rescue medication (Albuterol). Asthma rescue medication administration in a school setting allows kids to remain in the classroom and avoids costly emergency room visits. Without this medication, the attack often worsens and can become life-threatening,” said Craig E. Batterman, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Southern Illinois University Medicine.

Asthma causes an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn lead to days of work missed by adult caregivers. Asthma medical costs in Illinois are projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020.

“Illinois has made great strides in helping children with asthma attend school without the fear that their schools will be unprepared for an inevitable asthma attack,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “SB 3015 will help children even more by allowing backup inhalers to be kept at the school, similar to EpiPens.”

Ten other states have adopted similar policies, including Indiana and Missouri. Early results indicate that these policies reduce the need for 911 calls and EMS transports as a result of asthma attacks. Initial data also demonstrate that these policies reach populations of need and improve health outcomes.

“Thankfully, administering albuterol has minimal side effects.  By comparison, the consequences of not treating or delaying treatment of a child experiencing respiratory distress can be dangerous. SB 3015 will give schools the ability to quickly respond to asthma emergencies and work with students and families to ensure ongoing proper asthma management at school,” said Amy Zimmerman, a Program Director at Legal Council for Health Justice.

Respiratory Health Association and Legal Council for Health Justice worked together to propose a stock asthma rescue medication policy in Illinois. They recently published an issue brief assessing the fit and feasibility of stock asthma rescue medication in Illinois schools, which is available for download on Respiratory Health Association’s website lungchicago.org.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. The organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

Legal Council for Health Justice conducts education, outreach, and advocacy to address discrimination, disadvantage, and disparities in health, wealth, and well-being across the lifespan of vulnerable populations. Through our award winning medical-legal partnerships we target people impacted by chronic, disabling and stigmatizing health and social conditions to empower them to lead fulfilling lives, reach their self-determined goals, and secure and plan their futures. For more information visit www.legalcouncil.org.

First Air Pollution Action Day of 2018 Called

May 25, 2018

Michele Reyes
Coordinator, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0226


First Air Pollution Action Day of 2018 Called

CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association is alerting the public that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued an Air Pollution Action Day alert to individuals in the Chicago Metropolitan area for Saturday. As a result of the high temperatures and low wind speeds, air pollution levels, specifically ground-level ozone, are expected to reach the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. This is the first Action Day issued for 2018. Due to weather conditions, ozone smog levels may remain high for several days over the holiday weekend.

An Air Pollution Action Day is declared when weather conditions are such that widespread ozone or fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels are expected to be at or above the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category on the U.S. EPA’s Air Quality Index for multiple days. Saturday, May 26th is expected to meet these criteria, therefore, an Air Pollution Action Day is being declared. At increased levels, ground-level ozone poses a potential health hazard to sensitive populations, especially individuals with respiratory or pulmonary conditions as well as active children and adults. Those individuals should take special precautions and follow their physician prescribed regimen. Residents should keep cool and limit physical activity when air pollution levels are high.

Employers and residents of the Chicago metropolitan area are asked to follow “Green Actions” (as described below) to reduce contributions to air pollution. These groups are also encouraged to share air quality forecasts and Action Day alerts with colleagues, friends and family to help protect their health.

  • Take public transit, Rideshare, walk or bike.
  • If driving, avoid idling, consolidate errands and run them after 7 p.m. when sunlight is not as strong.
  • Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment on Air Pollution Action Days.
  • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Set your thermostat up 2 degrees.
  • Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
  • Use environmentally-friendly household and cleaning products.
  • Use a charcoal chimney or gas grill instead of lighter fluid when grilling.
  • Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
  • Sign-up to receive air quality forecasts via email at enviroflash.info!

Up-to-date information on daily air quality for the Chicagoland area can be found at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s www.airnow.gov webpage.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in metropolitan Chicago since 1906. Today, the association addresses asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tobacco control and air quality with a comprehensive approach involving research, education and advocacy activities. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

Lung Health Policy Update – May 2018

RHA’s policy team has been hard at work advancing state and local lung-friendly legislation in Illinois. Here’s what we have achieved with your generous support and advocacy.

Tobacco 21 Policies Gain Momentum

The age of 21 is important for tobacco prevention since 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. The majority of underage tobacco users get their tobacco from their peers. Raising the sales age to 21 would mean that high school aged adolescents would be in separate social networks from those who are most likely to supply them tobacco.

Aurora, Glen Ellyn, Peoria and Skokie recently adopted local Tobacco 21 laws in the last two months. That makes 24 municipalities in total covering 3,890,223 residents (30 percent of total state population covered). Legislation taking Tobacco 21 statewide passed the Illinois Senate last month and awaits a hearing in the Illinois House. Contact your State Representatives now to let them know you support Tobacco 21.

RHA Leads Efforts to Help Schools Handle Asthma Emergencies

Access to emergency asthma medication can save lives. Asthma takes a staggering toll on Illinois families, causing more than 300,000 missed school days and nearly 150 deaths each year, in addition to increasing healthcare costs for emergency department visits. The ‘Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication’ bill would help school districts in Illinois better serve students with asthma by permitting schools to voluntarily maintain a stock of asthma rescue medication and permitting trained staff to administer the medication during episodes of respiratory distress. This legislation passed the Illinois Senate with unanimous support and awaits a hearing in the Illinois House.

Illinois House Advances Medication Coverage Protections

Families in Illinois shop carefully for a health plan that provides the benefits they need. But no laws in Illinois prohibit changes in coverage during the course of the policy year while consumers are locked into their plans. Midyear reductions in coverage often cause “non-medical switching” – the practice in which stable patients are forced off their original medications, regardless of clinician recommendations and health consequences. Patients who rely on medications to keep their health stable should be able to shop for coverage without fear that their benefits will be changed or eliminated during the policy year. The legislation passed the Illinois House and awaits hearing in the Illinois Senate.

New Chicago Ordinances Target ‘Other Tobacco Products’

In April, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance with a number of initiatives to target ‘other tobacco products’ (non-cigarette products). The new ordinance requires tobacco retailers in Chicago to post warnings at the store entrance addressing the dangers of other tobacco products. Other tobacco products like little cigars, cigarillos, and other cigarettes are often starter products for youth and young adults. Among these populations, there is considerable misinformation about the health risks and addictive nature of these products. While Chicago’s youth cigarette smoking rate reached historic lows this year, surveys show that Chicago teens now smoke cigars and e-cigarettes at greater numbers than cigarettes. The ordinance also bans free samples and further limits the use of tobacco coupons in Chicago.

Unfair Subsidies for Old Coal-Fired Power Plants in Illinois

Vistra Energy—which recently bought the company that owned nine of Illinois’ oldest coal power plants—is asking Illinois to make state residents pay higher prices for their coal plant-generated electricity—even though the power plants are already profitable. This is occurring at a time when billions of dollars are being invested in building new clean wind and solar power projects in Illinois. RHA opposes the subsidies for dirty coal.

Separately, but at the same time, Vistra is asking for the Illinois Pollution Control Board to relax air pollution rules for its coal fired power plants so that it has greater freedom to shut down coal power plants with pollution controls and to run dirtier plants without pollution controls harder, increasing air pollution. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is opposing this air pollution increase as well. RHA continues to fight both of these efforts aimed at prolonging the use of dirty coal power.

Allowing Communities to Ban the Use of Toxic Coal Tar Pavement Sealants

The original language would have allowed counties and municipalities to ban the use of coal tar sealants high in carcinogenic materials, including materials linked to lung cancer. While discussions were held to move this legislation forward, details could not be worked out before the legislative deadline passed.

Keeping the Legal Authority to Test and Ticket Polluting Trucks

This bill would eliminate the authority of the Illinois State Police to stop, test and ticket excessively smoking trucks in the Chicago and E. St. Louis regions. In testimony last week, the State Police conceded they have not been enforcing this law since 2005 when they broke their smoke testing equipment, and have not replaced it since. RHA testified in favor of keeping the legal authority to test and ticket big trucks, as many polluting trucks remain on the road and excessive smoke worsens both respiratory conditions and heart conditions. We noted that other states like New Jersey continue to test trucks and have even stricter limits on tailpipe pollution than Illinois law. Unfortunately the State Police’s claim that they would have to spend up to $1 million to replace the equipment, among other reasons, meant legislators have continued to support eliminating powers the state police have not used in recent years.

If you’d like to support RHA’s advocacy and policy work, join our e-advocacy team today.

2018 Guide to RHA’s Asthma Resources

Asthma is a chronic, or lifelong, inflammation of the lungs’ airways. This inflammation, or swelling, makes airways more sensitive to triggers such as pollen, dust, secondhand smoke or pet dander. Exposure to these triggers can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness of the chest and coughing. Asthma affects more than 18 million adults and nearly 6.2 million children.

Scientific discoveries have led to improved treatments, but there is currently no cure for this lifelong disease. Fortunately, most asthma can be managed and controlled with proper medication and education.

Since May is Asthma Awareness Month, we want to highlight the wide range of asthma resources available on RHA’s website for people living with asthma. If you or someone you love is living with asthma, check out some of these key resources:

Living with Asthma – Learn more about different kinds of asthma triggers, medications, and signs of an asthma emergency.  RHA’s asthma education programs for school-aged children and adults provide much of this information. With today’s knowledge and treatments, most people can live normal, active lives and experience few symptoms.

Asthma Action Plans – Every person living with asthma should have an asthma action plan. Asthma action plans are written documents developed by you and your health care provider, listing customized steps to prevent and handle an asthma episode. If you are the parent/guardian of a child with asthma, you should complete an asthma action plan with your child’s health care provider. A copy of this plan should be given to any adult who provides care for your child.

Asthma at School – Asthma is the leading cause of school absence due to chronic illness. An estimated 13.8 million school days are lost per year due to asthma. Sending your child with asthma to school can create concerns for both of you. Learn more about how to prepare to send your child with asthma to school as well as Illinois laws protecting your child’s right to carry an inhaler and what you can expect from your school in regards to asthma management.

What You Need to Know about Asthma – Curious about spacers, nebulizers, or the asthma warning signs? The Asthma section of our library has a wide array of brief, one-page overviews with the most essential information you need to know to understand and manage asthma.

Don’t forget to check in with your doctor and care team regularly to ensure your asthma is under control and you’re following their recommendations. With proper care people living with asthma can lead full and healthy lives.

RHA’s Asthma Programs Empower Children to Live Better Lives

In Illinois, more than 330,000 children have asthma, but less than 25 percent of those children have their asthma under proper control.

That means three out of four children living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits, hospitalizations and school absences.

The Importance of Asthma Self-management

One way to improve the quality of life for children with asthma is to teach them self-management. Asthma self-management reduces inappropriate urgent care and hospital usage, improves health outcomes and decreases health care costs.

Asthma self-management includes:

  • Properly identifying your asthma symptoms
  • Identifying and avoiding your personal asthma triggers
  • Using proper inhaler techniques

Despite the benefits of learning self-management, only five percent of children with asthma in Illinois have ever taken an asthma education course; 43.5 percent have an asthma action plan in place; and 47.1 percent were advised to change their environment to help control asthma.

Addressing the Gap in Asthma Education

To address this gap in asthma education, RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© for school-aged children and an accompanying Asthma Management program for their adult caregivers.

These free programs better arm children and their adult caregivers with the knowledge they need to control the disease, thereby reducing asthma emergencies and improving their quality of life.

“It’s important for communities to have access to this education because so many people need information and don’t know where to go until kids are in crisis,” said Ms. Wilson, the grandmother of a student at John Hay Elementary Community Academy in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.

Why Fight Asthma Now© is Effective

RHA developed Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management to meet the specific needs of Chicago’s diverse communities, with focus on serving the communities of highest need.

Based on guidelines from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP), both programs were developed with input from pediatricians, respiratory therapists, community educators and parents of children with asthma.

The programs include culturally appropriate visual, auditory and experiential learning through diagrams and photographs, demonstrations, group discussion and individual reflection.

All students who participate in Fight Asthma Now© receive a free workbook, which includes an asthma action plan and a free holding chamber courtesy of Monaghan Medical Corporation. Holding chambers increase the effectiveness of metered dose inhalers by allowing more medication to enter the lungs. Proper holding chamber technique is also demonstrated in each Fight Asthma Now© session.

Ms. Wilson said that the program empowered her grandchild to share asthma experiences with classmates and let them know “they don’t have to be afraid.”

The Impact of RHA’s Asthma Education Programs

To date, more than 15,000 students have been reached with Fight Asthma Now© and more than 33,000 adult caregivers have been educated through RHA’s Asthma Management throughout Chicagoland. The success of the programs in Chicago recently led to adoption by the Los Angeles Unified School District and select schools in Washington D.C.

All students and adult caregivers participate in pre- and post-evaluation to assess knowledge gain. Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management participants have all demonstrated improved knowledge in asthma management including greater knowledge of medication adherence, utilizing asthma devices and environmental triggers.

Asthma emergencies can be prevented when children living with asthma and their caregivers know how to properly use prescribed asthma medications, implement trigger avoidance strategies and recognize warning signs.

For more information about Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management, contact Amy O’Rourke, Director of Programs, via email at aorourke@lungchicago.org or by phone at (312) 628-0217.

Respiratory Health Association Unveils New Asthma Research at World Asthma Day Press Conference

On May 1, also known as World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released new asthma research showing that despite over a decade of efforts from researchers, health care providers and community organizations, there has been little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma.

Of all the asthma-related emergency department visits by Chicago children in 2015, a staggering 63% were African American children. The rate of visits among African Americans was 75% greater than the citywide rate.

RHA announced the new findings at a press conference held with partners from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools.

The press conference was covered by CBS 2, WBBM News Radio and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

“It is clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities in asthma,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Respiratory Health Association. “Poorly managed asthma leads to missed school days, reduced health outcomes and overall lost opportunities. No child should fall behind because of a manageable condition like asthma.”

After the press event, RHA convened the Chicago Children’s Asthma Summit, bringing together research, education, community and public health leaders working to address pediatric asthma.

RHA is calling for more research into trends in asthma; better data tracking of asthma prevalence and demographics; broadened support of community-based asthma programming to promote asthma management; and additional collaboration between research, practice and policy partners as initial steps to close the gap in racial disparities among children with asthma.

If you’d like support our work providing critical asthma services to Chicago children, consider joining our Lung Health Partners monthly giving program.