Our Policy Initiatives

You can help us create a future with healthy lungs and clean air for all.

We focus on policies that address clean air and lung health concerns — including those around air quality, lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and tobacco control. With your support, we advocate for change that will reduce youth smoking, help children with asthma manage their disease and clean up our air for everyone. These changes improve the lives of those living with lung disease — and move us toward a future free of lung disease, where everyone breathes easier.

Through visits, calls and emails to legislators, elected officials learn what it is like to live with COPD, to manage a child’s asthma or to care for people living with lung cancer. Giving a voice to people living with lung disease is critical to introducing and passing lung-friendly policies.

Our Policy Focus in 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited activity in many levels of government, we are continuing to move forward with our 2020 policy agenda priorities through the rest of the year.

Air Quality and Climate Change

  • Pass the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).
  • Ensure Chicago Transit Authority is set on a long-term path to achieve an all electric bus fleet by 2030.
  • Work to ensure Chicago uses electricity from 100% clean renewable sources in all buildings by 2035.

Asthma Management

  • Increase funding for asthma management programs (including school-based asthma education training and community health worker services) to $1 million.
  • Secure funding to provide undesignated stock albuterol to all Illinois schools.
  • Secure a state resolution declaring May as Asthma Awareness Month.

COPD

  • Reinstate the respiratory health module consistently as part of the Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey.
  • Add the caregiving module to the Illinois BRFSS survey.

Tobacco Control

  • Recommend a ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products including mint and menthol.
  • Add e-cigarettes to Illinois’ smoke-free law.
  • Secure funding for smoking cessation and vaping prevention.

To read our full list of priorities, click here.

We continue supporting policies that benefit the health of residents throughout Illinois and beyond. Read more below about our focus and some of our recent advocacy successes.

Access to Care

With improved health outcomes and decreased costs to the health system, it is imperative to remember that protecting access to care is good for lung health.  Respiratory Health Association’s issue brief, the Affordable Care Act is Good for Lung Health, examines how the ACA’s possible repeal will impact vulnerable populations, both locally and nationally, with a particular focus on the numbers who will lose their health care coverage. There are continued threats against the ACA, and we will fight against any efforts to weaken or dismantle the Act. We will continue to advocate for access to care for the lung health community.

In 2020, RHA, as a member of the US COPD Coalition, succeeded in getting Medicare to waive rules throughout the pandemic, and permit patients to access respiratory therapists outside of the hospital setting.

Asthma Preparedness

To better equip schools to handle asthma emergencies, RHA worked with public health partners to pass the Asthma Episode Emergency Response Protocol. This law ensures that uniform asthma response measures are in place in all Illinois schools and that all teachers have access to proper asthma management training and asthma emergency quick-reference documents. In collaboration with several state agencies, RHA developed an online training for school staff, which is accessible in our Asthma Management resources.

Additionally, we were part of passing legislation in 2018 allowing a supply of albuterol and other emergency asthma medications to be stored at schools across the state. The rule was adopted and added to the state register in January of 2020. This means a trained school staff member can administer rescue medication from the school’s stock to a child who is suffering an asthma episode — even if the child’s medications aren’t at the school, or he or she has none. This rule, similar to the legislation allowing EpiPens in school, offers a way to protect children whose lives might be in jeopardy otherwise. We worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health to finalize a toolkit to provide schools with information to support implementation of this new rule. We will work in Springfield to make sure that the rule is funded so the promise of albuterol in schools is a reality.

Clean Energy

RHA and its allies helped secure passage of Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, assuring greater use of renewable energy in the state and further reductions in air pollution from other energy sources — a law that will prevent thousands of asthma episodes. We continue to defend the funds that are dedicated to advancing clean, renewable energy in Illinois. Visit the Clean Energy section of our Library for additional information.

COPD National Action Plan

We applaud the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and its partners for recognizing the need for a COPD National Action Plan. This plan will serve as a springboard for policy change that will help COPD patients and their caregivers, and foster better communications among healthcare providers, COPD caregivers, and patients, all in an effort to reduce the burden of COPD and improve health outcomes for people living with the disease. RHA worked for years with partners to urge federal leaders to develop the national action plan and we look forward to playing a key role in its implementation.

Tobacco 21

Respiratory Health Association applauds the signing of Illinois’ statewide Tobacco 21 law in 2019, which raised the minimum purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. We estimate statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save the lives of more than 24,000 children alive today who otherwise would have died from tobacco-related illness. In addition the policy will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

We also continue to advocate for policies that further decrease the use of tobacco, including a full ban of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol.

Toxic Air Pollution

Air pollution can endanger your lung health in outdoor and indoor environments. Breathing air pollutants can cause numerous health problems including lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and premature death. Respiratory visits to health care providers’ offices, emergency room treatments, and hospitalizations all increase when air quality worsens.

Due to the health impact of environmental pollution, we are working to:

  • Limit diesel soot pollution from construction equipment, buses, trucks and trains
  • Reduce air pollution from dirty coal-fired fossil fuel power plants and increase the use of clean renewable power
  • Support efforts to bring cleaner cars and zero-emission electric vehicles to Illinois
  • Reduce the threat of deadly radon exposure
  • Reduce motor vehicle idling; ensure clean air laws are followed and clean air standards enforced

Visit the Air Pollution section of our Library for additional information.

Get Involved

Join our e-advocacy team and receive action alerts about current policy change efforts.

Become an Advocacy Champion to share your lung disease story with lawmakers.

Health Professionals for Healthy Lungs engages health providers across Illinois in advocacy for sound health care and clean policy.

For more information about these policy initiatives, contact Kelly Nichols at [email protected].