Save the date: COPD Patient Conference

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for Respiratory Health Association’s 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL. RHA’s goal at the 2019 COPD conference is to promote disease awareness and to help people who are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to become educated consumers of healthcare, as well as effective disease self-managers.

At last year’s event, nearly 300 individuals living with COPD, caregivers and pulmonary rehab staff enjoyed a variety of sessions, including a moderated keynote, “Living Everyday with COPD”. Panelists Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS and Harvey Wolf, Psy.D shared recommendations on preventing COPD exacerbations, methods for monitoring symptoms of COPD, and tips to manage the comorbidities of anxiety and depression in patients with COPD.

Conference planning is under way and people living with COPD and their caregivers will not want to miss this year’s event. Registration will open in September. Supplemental oxygen and bus transportation from locations throughout Chicagoland will be offered.

Living Better Together is the country’s largest patient-focused COPD conference. We welcome individual or group attendance. If you have any questions about Living Better Together logistics, programming or attendance, please contact RHA program coordinator Avanthi Chatrathi at (312) 229-6186 or [email protected].

New Rule Decreases Coal Pollution

For nearly two years we’ve been fighting an effort to allow coal power plants to nearly double the amount of lung and climate-damaging pollution they pump into the air we breathe. The proposed changes to the state’s air pollution control rules were negotiated behind closed doors by the company that owns eight polluting power plants and then-Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Respiratory Health Association sent advocates and policy experts to testify against this attempted rollback at hearings, working with a coalition of environmental and health organizations across the state and the Illinois Attorney General. We also worked with local media to shed light on the situation and inform the public.

In a victory last month, the matter was settled and vast pollution increases were avoided. RHA testimony about coal power plant pollution at a hearing in 2018

The new rules require Vistra, the company that owns half of Illinois’ remaining coal-burning power plants, to close 2,000 megawatts of dirty electricity production by the end of this year. That’s roughly the equivalent of three coal plants.

In addition, the rule caps the emissions across the entire fleet at a level roughly equivalent to the pollution produced each year over the last two years – down considerably from the original request to double emissions.

Coal power has long been in decline because it is more expensive than other methods of producing electricity. Renewable, non-polluting wind and solar energy are becoming less expensive and more reliable as primary power sources every day and continue to grow dramatically in Illinois.

Legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act is also gathering momentum in the Illinois General Assembly. It creates a path to eliminate burning fossil fuels to produce electricity while dramatically increasing investment in wind and solar energy while also accelerating electrification of transportation.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act didn’t get a vote in the last legislative session, but with nearly 80 legislators sponsoring it, we plan to continue building support for the legislation during the veto session this fall.

If you’d like to be stay up to date about clean air and lung-friendly policy efforts like these, sign up for RHA’s advocacy action alerts. You’ll be alerted to changes in policy and given the option to easily contact your elected officials via email.

Dr. Ravi Kalhan Receives 2019 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS, Director of the Northwestern Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Program, as recipient of the 2019 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD.

Kathleen Hart Solovy and Dr. Ravi KalhanDr. Kalhan additionally serves as director of the Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency Clinical Resource Center at Northwestern and medical director of the lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) program. Dr. Kalhan’s clinical interests are in the care of patients with both asthma and COPD as well as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. His research interests relate to respiratory epidemiology, in particular, identification of early risk factors that impact the vulnerability of certain cigarette smokers to develop COPD. He is also involved in clinical trials of new therapies for both asthma and COPD.

Dr. Kalhan additionally serves as Chairman of the Illinois COPD Coalition, a multidisciplinary group, including representatives from community-based organizations, public health departments, professional organizations, patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and home healthcare providers. They have the goal of implementing sustainable solutions for reducing the burden of COPD in Illinois.

The 2019 Solovy Award was presented to Dr. Kalhan by RHA board member Kathleen Hart Solovy as part of RHA’s year-end reception on June 27, 2019. Funding for the award is provided by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD.

Each year Respiratory Health Association awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.

COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit a Success

In August 2018, RHA was awarded funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Learn More Breathe Better Program to launch a pilot study of caregivers’ acceptance of the COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit.

The Toolkit was developed in 2017 by RHA, with the support of Illinois Institute of Technology, after a significant gap was found in educational and support resources dedicated to informal caregivers. Grounded in health theory, the Toolkit is organized into five sections, each which address a different aspect of caregiving.

In order to measure caregivers’ acceptance and perceptions of the usefulness of the Toolkit, RHA distributed 215 Toolkits to providers at Illinois pulmonary rehabilitation groups and clinical practices in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. These providers distributed 95 of these Toolkits to informal caregivers between August and October 2018.

Participating caregivers were then surveyed three months after receiving the Toolkit on the usefulness of the Toolkit in carrying out their caregiving responsibilities. Eight caregivers also participated in one of two focus groups at the Living Better Together Conference on November 15th, 2018 to provide more in-depth feedback about the Toolkit. Finally, six providers who distributed the Toolkit participated in key informant interviews between January and February 2019 to give feedback about the Toolkit’s usefulness to informal caregivers and where the Toolkit fit into the flow of COPD care and management.

Initial findings show that the Toolkit is meeting a need for caregivers

Even though most of the participating caregivers had at least one year of caregiving experience, a majority of them found the information provided in the Toolkit to be relevant to their caregiving duties, highlighting a need for this tool as a supportive resource.

In addition to aiding in caregiving duties, results show that the Toolkit helped caregivers take time to care for themselves. Participants in the study reported that the section on self-care in the Toolkit helped them gain perspective on their role and sacrifices they have made as caregivers, as well as helped them feel more comfortable taking time to focus on their own emotional and physical health.

Up next: distributing the Toolkit to a larger audience

Based on feedback from caregivers and providers, Toolkit distribution will focus on caregivers of newly diagnosed COPD patients and those of patients recently hospitalized due to a COPD exacerbation. RHA also plans to create a user’s guide to accompany Toolkit distribution as a way to help informal caregivers integrate this tool into ongoing caregiving activities. Finally, RHA also plans to develop a training or webinar for health care providers to provide guidance on how to introduce the Toolkit to patients and their informal caregivers on how to use the Toolkit effectively.

For a more comprehensive overview of results from this pilot study, please refer to the COPD Caregiver Toolkit Full Report.

Your Advocacy Influences Tobacco Policy Wins

Over the past 6 months, many of you personally met with dozens of lawmakers in your communities and in Springfield. RHA and advocates talked to lawmakers about Tobacco 21, clean energy jobs legislation and the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes. The impact of your visits, letters and emails can be felt in the many legislative initiatives that passed the Illinois Legislature this session.

Here’s an update on the tobacco control victories we achieved together!

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law in Illinois

After four years of advocacy efforts, Tobacco 21 was signed into law. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2019.  In the past few years, we had over 150 in-person visits with lawmakers where we discussed Tobacco 21. Youth advocates, volunteers with COPD, special event participants and health professionals joined RHA staff for these visits. We also had monthly in-district visits with Advocacy Champions and volunteers thanking legislators who supported lung health policies during the 2018 session.  Congratulations and thank you! Your personal stories, experiences and connections to this issue made a difference!

State Cigarette Tax to Increase by $1 per Pack

Raising the tobacco tax is one of the most effective tobacco prevention initiatives. To demonstrate support for a tobacco tax, RHA joined with partners to commission a poll that showed over 60% of Illinoisans support a tobacco tax. Increasing the Illinois cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack will generate $159.35 million in new annual revenue for the state as well as providing many health benefits:

  • Reduce youth smoking by 11 percent.
  • Prevent 28,700 kids under 18 from becoming adults who smoke.
  • Help 48,700 adults who currently smoke quit.
  • Prevent 21,000 premature smoking-caused deaths.
  • Provide $1.56 billion in long-term health care cost savings from adult and youth smoking declines.

Illinois to Tax E-cigarettes

Consistent with the federal government, e-cigs are now defined by the state as tobacco products and will be subject to licensing requirements as a result of this legislation.  E-cigarettes will now be taxed at 15% of wholesale price. This is a significant step because e-cig use is skyrocketing. Our polling also showed that 73% of Illinoisans support taxing e-cigarettes.  We applaud the Illinois Legislature for adding a tax to these addictive products.

No Smoking in Motor Vehicles

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and young people, in particular, are susceptible to the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke. Legislation passed this year that will make it illegal to smoke in cars with children in the vehicle. Illinois joins eight other states that currently offer protections from secondhand smoke for minors in vehicles

RHA Advocates for Federal Investment in Prevention

Respiratory Health Association joined partners in the public health community in supporting federal legislation that aims to restore funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This bill would increase the funding level starting in FY2020. Investments in prevention provide a return on investment in health care savings and improved health outcomes.

 

Thank you for your continued support in reducing the deadly toll of tobacco in our community!

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion  or e-advocate today.

Together We Made Strides toward Cleaner Air

RHA has worked for decades to reduce pollution from industrial sources like power plants and the millions of vehicles operating in Illinois.  This spring, your advocacy visits, emails and phone calls led to substantial victories for clean air. We also gained ground on important policies we’ll continue to advance next session.

 

Clean Energy Jobs Act Continues to Build Momentum

The ambitious Clean Energy Jobs bill continues to gain momentum with 49 co-sponsors in the House and 27 in the Senate by the end of May – with many joining as co-sponsors after RHA’s Lung Health Education Day in March.

The bill would ensure all electricity comes from non-carbon sources by 2030 (no fossil fuels) and all electricity comes from clean renewable sources by 2050; that the benefits of clean energy development from this transition are distributed equitably; and that efforts to electrify transportation remove the emissions equivalent of a million cars from the air people breathe.

RHA will continue to build on this momentum until the General Assembly comes back to Springfield in October.

 

Long-Standing Prohibition on State Action to Address Climate Crisis is Repealed

Legislation passed this session will remove a law passed 20 years ago that prohibited Illinois from enacting any policies to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle the climate crisis. The vote reflects that the state legislature increasingly sees an unstable climate as a health threat, especially for vulnerable people and those living with chronic medical conditions.

Removing this restriction means Illinois can now forge a more effective climate strategy and implement stronger greenhouse gas reduction policies, which will help expand clean renewable energy resources and reduce ozone smog. As the Sun-Times noted, Illinois could now even require tighter pollution limits for cars.

 

Clean Energy – Clean Air Victories in State Budget and Capital Spending Plan

The new state budget and capital plan passed this spring included several provisions to reduce emissions from electricity generation and transportation. Some harmful ideas were prevented as well.

Early versions of the capital plan included a $1000/year registration fee for any electric vehicles (EVs), which would have been a serious blow to the small but quickly growing market in Illinois just as more affordable EVs are beginning to show up at dealerships. In the end, zero-emission EV registration fees were raised to the same level as fossil fuel-powered vehicles and an extra $100/year fee was assessed since EV don’t contribute to state gasoline taxes. While this eliminated discounted registration fees for EVs, one of the very few incentives Illinois had to encourage people to by zero-emission vehicles, it also means EV fees are only a quarter of what was initially proposed.  Electric vehicles will still save drivers hundreds of dollars a year on gasoline not bought, and help reduce smog and greenhouse gas pollution!

 

Other victories this year in the state budget:

  • $50 million for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund. This supports the Illinois Solar for All program, which prioritizes new solar electric generation projects and solar job training in low-income communities.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for state facilities. This is sufficient funding to reduce 5% of state building energy usage, which will lower power demand and air pollution.
  • $70 million is in the capital plan to construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure in low income communities, helping ensure all communities can use electric vehicles.
  • $20 million is re-appropriated and another $60 million is appropriated from the Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement fund. Illinois EPA can now spend $80m on electric vehicle projects in the coming year that help reduce emissions from transportation sources to clean the air.

 

Together we’ve made great strides toward cleaner air, healthier lungs and a more sustainable future.

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion today.

10 steps we’ve taken together to prevent lung disease & promote clean air

It’s the end of our program year, and we want to share some of the ways your support helped our work preventing lung disease and promoting clean air. These are just a few of the ways we were able to give back to our communities in Chicago, Illinois and across the country over the last year.

Women’s Lung Health

We re-launched our Catch Your Breath® campaign to raise awareness and funds for women’s lung health research. One out of every six women in the U.S. lives with chronic lung disease. Through a partnership with Jewelry Television, we reached millions of people and raised funds to address lung disease.

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law

Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 protects kids, saves lives and saves money. After a veto last year, RHA volunteers, board members and event participants doubled down to ensure Illinois lawmakers again passed Tobacco 21 legislation. This April, the Governor signed the bill into law.

Caring for COPD Caregivers

As a part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Learn More Breathe Better Campaign to empower COPD patients, RHA studied the usefulness of our COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit among caregivers in four Midwestern states. Between 80-90% of participants found the Toolkit to be relevant, understandable and would recommend it to another caregiver.

RHA Associates Board Grows

Part of our commitment to creating a better future includes shaping future leaders in the lung health community. This year we welcomed several new members to the Associates Board where members network, learn about volunteer leadership and have access to professional development opportunities while supporting RHA’s mission. Do you know a promising young professional looking for volunteer leadership experience? Nominate a new AB member. 

Training Educators for Asthma Emergencies

RHA’s online training in emergency asthma response reached more than 9,500 school staff. The results are in: after the training, over 90% of staff & teachers were able to identify a child having difficulty with asthma, knew how to help students avoid asthma triggers and knew how to respond to an asthma emergency.

Next Generation Advocates at RHA's 2018 volunteer recognition night

Next Generation Advocates

RHA has a secret weapon behind our recent advocacy successes – youth advocates. From third graders at Chicago’s Village Leadership Academy to RHA event participants, young people are raising their voices to help build a future free of lung disease—all while learning about local government and the value of civic engagement.

Supporting Providers, Supporting Patients

RHA’s Counsel to Quit® brief tobacco intervention training reached over 500 healthcare providers. Outcomes were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and showed that our program gave providers greater confidence in their ability to help smokers and to answer questions about the use of e-cigarettes.

Kicking the Habit

Through our City-funded Chicago Quits program, an initiative helping high-risk adults quit smoking, RHA delivered the Courage to Quit® smoking cessation program to nearly 500 program participants with a 27% quit rate among program completers, compared to 5% when people try to quit smoking cold turkey.

Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes

Dr. Kevin Haas used RHA research funding to study educational lung cancer screening resources. He determined current online information was written at a reading level many patients couldn’t understand and set out to make clear materials that help all patients realize the benefits of lung cancer screening.

Bringing Clean Energy to Chicago

RHA worked with the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution for Chicago to use 100% clean, renewable power in all buildings in the city by 2035. It also sets a 2040 deadline for using electric buses in the entire CTA fleet, and we are currently working with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reach this goal even sooner.

Your support made these and other lung health victories possible. Thank you. 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates like these throughout the year.

23rd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 3-5, 2019

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2019 Charity Bike Tour

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 23rd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days.

What’s Included When you Register?

All routes are one-way with free return transportation back to the start line and include full SAG and medical support; two daily rest stops; breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Two and three-day riders (130 & 190 mile routes) also receive comfortable, indoor housing accommodations.

Saturday night is spent at the newly-remodeled Conference Point Center (CPC) on the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. CPC has 5 stars on Facebook and 4.5 stars on Google reviews!

Sunset over Lake Geneva from Conference Point Center in William's Bay Wisconsin A bedroom at Conference Point Center - Night one of Cowalunga 2019 Living area of a cabin at Conference Point Center Conference Point Center grounds during CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

Sunday night is CowaLUNGa’s college throw back night at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Prop those dorm doors open and relive those carefree campus days, complete with games and entertainment in the UWW Student Center.

Dorms at University of Wisconsin WhitewaterUniversity of Wisconsin Whitewater Campus FountainCowaLUNGa entertainment at UWW Student Center

Read more about housing, logistics and other event details here.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

CowaLUNGa 2019 Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage. Early bird registration discounts are available until June 15.  First-time riders that select two or three day routes receive 50% off registration. Call 312-628-0200 for more information on or to register with our first-time rider discount.

 

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 Registration fees chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Still thinking it over? Sign up for CowaLUNGa email updates.

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2019? Start your journey!

Nestor’s Giving Cancer a Run for Its Money

Before January 2018, Nestor Rivera had never even run a 5k. Now, less than two years later, he plans to run the Chicago Marathon with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team.

“You’d be amazed at what you can train your body to do,” Nestor says. “If you’re just consistent – not perfect – consistent.”

Nestor Rivera running a race

Nestor Rivera is going from couch to marathon in 2 years!

Nestor chose the Lung Power Team because of its mission to fight lung disease. His parents were in their teens when they began smoking. He recalls that his parents were chain smokers from the time he was born to the time he was 9 years old. As a child, he recognized them only with a cigarette in their hand.

But when his sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 21, they feared the possibility that their secondhand smoke had been a contributing factor in the development of her illness. They quit smoking right then. Then in 2013, Nestor’s mother Milagros went in for a lung biopsy to explore an unusual spot  found during tests. After the biopsy, Nestor got a call that he describes as “absolutely earth-shattering.”

“You think you’re going to get a phone call that says everything has gone routinely. Next thing you know, I got word that one third of her lung is gone.”

Nestor’s mother was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer and had a third of her right lung resected on the very same day. Immediately after the surgery Milagros’ breathing was different, but over time she settled into a new normal. Nestor says she’s now feeling great, and as of a few weeks ago, Milagros has been in remission for almost six years. “It’s amazing what your body can tolerate,” Nestor says.

 

Nestor Rivera with his parents in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Nestor Rivera is running the Chicago marathon in honor of his mother, a lung cancer survivor.

 

His mother’s diagnosis made a huge impact on Nestor and was part of what spurred him to take up running. He’d never been a smoker, but he began to consider – what are other actions could he take to improve his overall health? Since his first race, the Chicago Cubs Race to Wrigley, Nestor has completed eleven more 5k races, two 10ks and a half marathon. He has three more half marathons on the docket for 2019 before running with the Lung Power Team in the fall.

“If there’s a challenge, I’m gonna take it,” Nestor says. “All you really need are a good pair of shoes. It’s not about getting the best time. It’s about achieving things that you didn’t think were possible.”

Nestor’s fundraising has now hit $3,016.20, putting him in first place towards the Lung Power Team’s $42,000 goal. His advice to fellow fundraisers?

Personalize the message.

In addition to his mother’s story, he also shares that his father-in-law has had chronic asthma his entire life. Nestor runs for him, too.

“When I’ve reached out to people individually, I’ve gotten more results,” he says. One challenge Nestor says he faces is that donors don’t feel they can contribute enough. “Some [people] think it’s better not to donate than to donate less than $100, but that’s not true. Every bit counts.” He notes how important it is to make every person feel like their donation makes a difference, no matter the amount.

His final note for fundraising matches his advice for training:

“Persistence.”

To help Nestor and his family fundraise for lung cancer research, asthma, and Tobacco 21, visit Nestor’s fundraising page.

Statement Applauding Signing of Statewide Tobacco 21 Law

April 7, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today Governor J.B. Pritzker made an important stride toward a healthier future for Illinois as he signed a bill into law that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21 years old. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill and Senator Julie Morrison who championed the statewide “Tobacco 21” legislation.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. 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 and away from teens.

“Tobacco 21 laws, like other laws inspired by public health, save thousands of lives a year.  Tobacco 21 in Illinois will reduce youth smoking and, as a result, mean fewer adult smokers, too,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Ultimately the new law will save more lives than Alcohol 21 and most other public health measures like it.”

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.

The new law has been strongly supported by a number youth advocates who joined RHA on advocacy visits and testified at local hearings. “I lost my dad in 2015 when I was 10 to lung disease and lung cancer,” says 14-year-old Ian Piet of Tinley Park. “Because of that, I am supporting tobacco 21 and other measures to help prevent lung disease.”

Respiratory Health Association estimates 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.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the law. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

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.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois 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.resphealth.org.