Make an Impact in 2022 – Join Respiratory Health Association’s Associates Board

New year, new ways to make a difference. This year, throw away the New Year’s resolutions and step up to make an impact in your Chicago community. Join Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) Associates Board to have a direct impact on the lives of people living with lung disease. With your help, we will create a future where everyone can breathe clean air.

RHA’s Associates Board is a group of young professionals, 25-40, dedicated to volunteering their time, talents, and energy to building a future with healthy lungs and clean air for all. Members serve as advocates for RHA and our work addressing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, tobacco control, and air quality.

Take it from some of our current Associate Board members, who shared what working with RHA means to them.

“RHA is a cause near and dear to my heart (and lungs). I had several asthma attacks growing up and know many who suffer or are suffering from lung cancer.”
– Colin McElligott

“I joined RHA’s Associates Board because I am passionate about climate change, clean air, and giving the next generation more equitable opportunities. Growing up in poor neighborhoods in NJ, I thought it was normal for most kids to have asthma. The work RHA does to change policies and educate citizens will help folks like me and communities like the one I’m from.”
– Dwayne Pickett

To learn more about RHA’s Associates Board check out and share our informational flyer here.

If you are looking to make an impact in your community and feel passionate about lung health, join us for an informational happy hour on Tuesday, February 8 from 7-8 PM.

To keep our happy hour safe, we are asking everyone to be able to show proof of vaccination and register in advance by completing this form.

Skokie Flavored Vaping Product Ban Falls Short

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

[email protected]

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Skokie’s Ban of Certain Flavored Vaping Products

Skokie, IL – This week the village of Skokie passed an ordinance banning the sale of certain flavored vaping products within village limits. The ordinance is part of a local effort to curb tobacco use by teens, as recent surveys have shown that over 80 percent of e-cigarette users between ages 12 to 17 report flavoring as a primary reason for using a tobacco product.

Notably, the new law does not restrict the sale of menthol flavorings.

In response to the ordinance, Respiratory Health Association issued the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the village of Skokie for taking steps to limit access to some flavored vaping products that disproportionately drive teen tobacco use today. Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks. We only wish the ordinance had followed the science and banned menthol flavoring— one of the preferred flavors among the teens Skokie is trying to protect. In fact, research suggests that banning some flavors while still allowing menthol flavoring will simply lead to young people switching to menthol products.

The vaping industry’s illegal marketing to children has been well documented, and one of the industry’s largest players, JUUL, has been sued by the FDA for making illegal claims about the safety of their products. Additionally, no level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.

The soothing sensation of menthol-flavored tobacco makes it easier to inhale and potentially harder to quit.  Because menthol products feel less harsh, they have greater appeal to new smokers and young people.[i]

We hope the village of Skokie will continue to develop additional measures that deter youth nicotine use, improve health equity, and protect vulnerable communities.”

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html

Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act Becomes Law

For Immediate Release

September 15, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

[email protected]

Respiratory Health Association Applauds Signing of Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (Senate Bill 2408)

 Legislation invests in clean energy, electric transportation in historic win for clean air and lung health

CHICAGO –After more than three years of advocacy and grassroots organizing by Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and partners across the state in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, today Governor Pritzker signed into law a nation-leading equitable climate bill.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act sets Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050 and commits millions of dollars to quickly accelerate transportation electrification in Illinois.

Following the Governor’s signing, RHA released the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds Governor Pritzker on today’s signing of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. Illinois is now poised to lead the nation in building a strong, sustainable future with an energy plan that addresses the public health threat of pollution from fossil fuels, takes steps to support communities most impacted by poor air quality, and creates quality jobs.

The energy and transportation industries are the leading contributors to air pollution, including particulate matter pollution and smog. Not only do these emissions accelerate climate change, but they have a significant impact on our health.

More than 137 million Americans live in communities, both cities and rural areas, with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Recent research indicates that worldwide more than eight million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution. Air pollution is also linked to increased risk for lung cancer and chronic lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

We would like to thank Governor Pritzker, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and other legislative champions in addition to thousands of diverse advocates who have joined us in advocating for clean energy, clean air, and healthy lungs for more than three years.”

Dr. Nadia Hansel Receives 2021 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Nadia Hansel, MD, MPH, as recipient of the 2021 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD. Dr. Hansel is the Director of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The award is funded by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD. It recognizes researchers who have worked to improve the lives of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Through the award, Dr. Hansel and her team will work to address the disparities and hospitalization burden of people living with COPD.

More than 16 million Americans live with COPD, a disease that makes breathing difficult and may lead to other conditions. Millions more have early symptoms.

Dr. Hansel has published over 200 articles and has been involved in local, national, and international educational activities focused on COPD. She researches the genetics and environmental factors of COPD and, in addition to her own work, serves as a mentor to investigators who are also dedicated to advancing the knowledge of COPD. A major focus of her work is the study of social causes of health-related risk factors for COPD including poverty, obesity, diet, and indoor air pollution. This is especially important as COPD has been traditionally considered a smoking-related illness, with other possible risk factors not fully addressed. Her work has also produced groundbreaking research showing indoor air cleaners may improve symptoms and reduce the risk of COPD flare-ups.

The impact of Dr. Hansel’s research is significant – and is a reminder that lung disease research is historically underfunded. Every year Respiratory Health Association awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD. Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.

Watch our 2021 Solovy Award spotlight:

New Report Shows Higher Rates of Lung Disease Near Chicago’s Busiest Transit Bus Routes

For Immediate Release

September 11, 2020

Contact:

Brian Urbaszewski

[email protected]

312-405-1175

New Report Shows Higher Rates of Lung Disease Near Chicago’s Busiest Transit Bus Routes

Data Highlight Urgent Need for Electrification Across City’s Fleet

CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and University of Chicago Center for Spatial Data Science (CSDS) released findings of a year-long study indicating higher rates of asthma and COPD near several bus routes and garage locations across the city of Chicago. The study, which referenced data from Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to examine lung disease prevalence in relation to Chicago’s bus routes.

The report analyzed 125 permanent CTA bus routes, classifying seven routes with an average of at least 20,000 riders per day and covering at least seven miles as high-traffic routes. Researchers found residents living within 500 meters (about 1600 feet) of these routes had asthma rates of 11.08%, which is 8.4% greater than the overall city rate. Those living within 500 meters of these routes had a 6.69% COPD rate, 10.6% higher than overall rate across the city. Additionally, residents living closest to any of the CTA’s seven bus garages had asthma rates more than 12% greater than the citywide average and COPD rates 23.6% greater than the citywide average.

“We already know that the air pollution produced by vehicles, including the diesel-powered buses which make up most of the CTA’s current fleet, is dangerous for people’s lungs,” commented Joel Africk, RHA President and Chief Executive Officer. “The higher rates of asthma and COPD along those busy routes – where residents are some of the most vulnerable in the city – show how important it is to replace diesel buses with electric models to improve air quality and protect everyone’s health.”

The report includes recommendations for priority routes to place electric vehicles as well as potential funding sources to support needed infrastructure. It was provided to CTA officials as part of its ongoing strategic planning efforts, which also include plans to reduce pollution produced by city transit vehicles. In 2019, Mayor Lightfoot’s transition team endorsed a goal of fully electrifying the CTA bus fleet and the Chicago City Council passed a resolution supporting complete electrification of CTA by 2040.

“Identifying socially vulnerable areas at greater risk of pollution exposure remains an important area of future research in the work of environmental justice and reducing health disparities,” noted Marynia Kolak, Assistant Director for Health Informatics at the Center for Spatial Data Science. “While these associations are complex, reducing the transit dimension of traffic pollution via electrification is a critical need for the city.”

“Federal, state, and local elected officials need to dedicate the resources needed for the Chicago Transit Authority to accelerate the city’s transition to electric buses,” Africk continued, “so residents – especially those living with lung disease – can enjoy the important health benefits cleaner transportation provides.”

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 Respiratory Health Association (RHA) has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.

Opposition to Proposed Watered-Down Chicago Tobacco Control Ordinance

For Immediate Release

September 4, 2020

 

Opposition to Proposed Watered-Down Chicago Tobacco Control Ordinance

 

September 4, 2020 – Chicago, IL – Today the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations met to vote on a revised and greatly weakened ordinance to regulate the sale of flavored tobacco products in Chicago. Respiratory Health Association’s President & Chief Executive Officer, Joel Africk, has issued the following statement in opposition to the revised ordinance. This statement was originally given as testimony during the committee meeting.

“Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Respiratory Health Association opposes the watered-down flavored tobacco substitute ordinance.  Chicago needs restrictions on all flavored and menthol products, including conventional cigarettes that are killing our vulnerable communities.  This ordinance is unanimously opposed by Respiratory Health Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association—the local patient service organizations who have spent the past 30 years advising Chicago government on tobacco control policy.

For almost 20 years—and until today– Chicago has had an unblemished record of getting tough on Big Tobacco. That record has driven smoking rates in Chicago to their lowest rates on record.  In each case, the key has been to reject the watered-down versions of laws deemed as more acceptable to the tobacco industry.  You see, the Big Tobacco playbook says to oppose tobacco control until it is inevitable, and then water it down as much as possible to preserve cigarette sales.  That tactic works because the watered-down ordinances relieve the political pressure to do something more comprehensive. That’s a pretty effective tactic.   Watered-down ordinances relieve political pressure.  And the legislature can always claim “at least we did something.”

In December 2005, with unanimous support from the service organizations, this Council passed one of the strongest smoke-free laws in the United States, under the leadership of Ald. Ed Smith.  The Council did so because it didn’t take a watered-down deal. There were offers of watered-down deals. “No smoking in restaurants but not bars.”  “Exclude Chicago’s private clubs.”  The watered-down offers kept flowing.  But this Council said no, and it passed a comprehensive Chicago smoke-free ordinance that saves an estimated 2500 lives a year.  Chicago resisted the same argument being advanced here, that a weaker watered-down ordinance would “do some good” and be a stepping stone on the way to solving a public health problem that is addicting and killing our community in record numbers.

The specific problem with the watered-down substitute ordinance here is that it lets people addicted to vaping simply switch back to flavored cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes, and continue their addiction.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  That is what Altria, the parent of Philip Morris, acknowledged in July 2020 in the Wall Street Journal.  Vaping-only restrictions, like the one before you, have caused sales of conventional cigarettes to increase.  It’s like plugging one leak in your pipe and leaving the other leaks un-repaired.

So, who wins and who loses from the passage of this substitute ordinance instead of the alderman’s original ordinance?  It’s easy to see who wins.  Big Tobacco wins.  The tobacco companies get to sell more cigarettes, including flavors and menthol, to Chicagoans. The ordinance gives young people who vape a chance to move to conventional cigarettes.  That is what Altria reported.  So we know who wins.

And who loses?  Who typically loses these things?  How about the vulnerable populations with high smoking rates, especially for menthol cigarettes, including young African American Chicagoans, who have already increased smoking regular cigarettes by 30% in the past two years?  They need a comprehensive solution to the problem, but instead they will continue to live with increased heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.  All because the substitute ordinance doesn’t solve the real problem.   Aren’t they the ones who always lose?

That is why this substitute ordinance is opposed by all of the local service organizations.  We pick up the pieces from what the tobacco industry lobbyists and some selfish retailers leave behind.  We see the patients who are sick.  We help people addicted to tobacco break their addiction. And we are trying to end the racial disparities in so many diseases tied to tobacco use.  It would be better to pass no ordinance at all, and let the political pressure build for true tobacco control in the City of Chicago.

We ask you to reject the substitute ordinance.”

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find COVID-19 Link

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find Link to COVID-19 Infection

CDC Study Shows Urgent Need for Federal, State, and Local Action to Reduce Youth E-Cigarette Use

Contact: Erica Krutsch, Director, Marketing & Communications
734-262-4527 | [email protected]

Chicago, IL – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new findings on youth tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, as part of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The survey found that nationally 32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019. That number represents a 148% increase since 2017. In Illinois, the survey found nearly 20% of high school students used vaping products, a 51% increase, and in Chicago, 12.4% of high schoolers vaped, which is an 88% increase.32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019

“The data show that Illinois and Chicago have made more progress in addressing the teen vaping crisis than some areas of the country, but there is still work to be done,” says Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer at Respiratory Health Association, a Chicago-based lung health organization. “We know e-cigarettes are dangerous, and we need to do everything in our power to prevent a generation of kids from starting.”

The CDC findings come less than two weeks after a Stanford University study found that young people who smoke or use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to contract coronavirus than nonsmokers. Preliminary research also suggests that smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers.

“Emerging research has already shown that e-cigarette use may increase coronavirus infection and cause more severe cases of lung disease – and we are only beginning to understand the lasting health impacts of this virus,” commented Ravi Kalhan, MD, Director, Asthma and COPD Program at Northwestern University and RHA board member. “Just a year after we first saw unprecedented cases of lung illness related to vaping, and now facing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially concerning to see a growing number of teens are putting themselves at risk by using e-cigarettes.”

Respiratory Health Association advocates strengthening state and local indoor clean air laws to include e-cigarette and vaping use and banning flavored tobacco products that entice young people to start smoking as meaningful ways to curb teen vaping.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906 focusing on lung health and clean air issues. 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 federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

Air Pollution Action Day Called for June 18

Air Pollution Levels to Bring Widespread Unhealthy Air Quality Throughout Chicago Area on Thursday
Air Pollution Exposure a Risk Factor for COVID-19

June 16, 2020 – Chicago, IL — Respiratory Health Association is alerting the public that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is declaring an Air Pollution Action Day for Thursday, June 18 in the Chicago metro area – including the city, north, south and west suburbs. Adjacent areas in Wisconsin and Indiana are also expected to see elevated air pollution levels. Groups who are sensitive to air pollution, including children, elderly people, people who work outdoors, and those living with lung disease should take appropriate precautions.

Warm, summer-like temperatures will lead to increased ground-level ozone (smog) on Wednesday, causing air quality to potentially reach the ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups’ level or higher across much of the region. To avoid possible breathing problems related to breathing ozone smog, people in sensitive groups, especially those living with lung diseases like asthma and COPD, should try to limit outdoor activity, stay cool and comfortable – preferably in an air-conditioned area—limit strenuous physical activity, and stay hydrated.

Employers and residents of the Chicago metropolitan area are asked to follow “green actions” like those described below to help reduce air pollution on Wednesday. These groups are also encouraged to share air quality forecasts and Action Day alerts with colleagues, friends, and family to help protect their health.

• Limit driving if you can — consider walking, biking, or working from home if possible.
• If driving, avoid idling, and try to run errands after 7 pm when sunlight is not as strong.
• Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment on Air Pollution Action Days.
• Set your thermostat up 2 degrees to limit air pollution from fossil fuel power plants.
• Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
• Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
• Sign-up to receive air quality forecasts via email at www.enviroflash.info.

High air pollution levels are additionally concerning now, as people exposed to higher pollution levels may be at greater risk of getting sick with COVID-19. This may exacerbate infection rates in communities of color already disproportionally harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. People living in these communities also face higher rates of lung diseases such as asthma.

For more information or to talk about the health impacts of air pollution on communities throughout the Chicago area, please contact Brian Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association. He is available by e-mail at [email protected] or via phone at 312-405-1175.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change. To learn more, visit resphealth.org.

A Statement on Racial Justice

To the Respiratory Health Association community,

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor have sparked outrage, sadness, and fear across the country. These tragic, preventable deaths and countless others lay bare the persistent racial inequities in our society – inequities that represent a crisis for public health.

Respiratory Health Association supports the protesters and those who are speaking out for racial justice.

To say anything else betrays our guiding principles and vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all. We cannot achieve health equity without addressing the systemic racism that is so deeply rooted in our country. As we watch current events unfold during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on black and brown communities and is simply the latest in a long list of inequities.

As we stand together demanding change, we must not confuse the actions of those seeking justice and systemic reform with the opportunistic actions of others seeking to harm the movement. Confusing those narratives only adds injustice to injustice.

We appreciate the seriousness of the challenges facing our country and support the work of the many organizations working on the front lines for racial equality, including many such organizations here in Chicago.

Sincerely,

Joel Africk
President & CEO
Respiratory Health Association

We Teamed Up With Fleet Feet and On to Give Back to Front-Line Healthcare Workers

Fleet Feet, Respiratory Health Association deliver 250 pairs of On running shoes to Chicago front-line medical workers

Donation provides comfort to staff at three area hospitals during COVID-19 response

CHICAGO, IL, May 06, 2020 – Fleet Feet, a leading retailer of athletic footwear and apparel; Respiratory Health Association, Chicago’s local lung health nonprofit; and On, innovators in shoe design technology, have teamed up to deliver more than 250 pairs of running shoes to front-line healthcare workers.

Shoes were delivered to healthcare staff at Northwestern Medicine, University of Chicago Medicine, and Loyola Medical Center this week. The deliveries coincided with the start of National Nurses Week and Nurse Appreciation Month.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the generous donation from On and collaboration with Fleet Feet that we hope provides some measure of comfort to medical staff in Chicago,” says Joel Africk, President & CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “We have to do everything we can to face this crisis as a united community, and this is a great example of everyone chipping in.”

“The medical profession is being asked to do more now than it ever has in our recent history. If they are doing more, we can do more to support them,” says Dave Zimmer, Owner, Fleet Feet. “We are fortunate to be working with On to provide footwear to hardworking respiratory therapists, doctors and nurses at local hospitals.”

“We are deeply appreciative of our medical heroes in Chicago and across the world as they continue the fight against COVID-19,” says Britt Olsen, On’s GM of North America. “They are risking their lives every day on the frontlines of this crisis and at On we felt the least we could do is help provide comfortable footwear during the many hours they’re spending on their feet. We also owe a huge thanks to Fleet Feet for collaborating with us in this donation process.”

Since 1906, Respiratory Health Association has helped address Chicago’s greatest lung health challenges – from tuberculosis and influenza to asthma and lung cancer. COVID-19 is the latest challenge. Respiratory Health Association empowers patients and protects the most vulnerable through education, advocacy and research.

Fleet Feet has been a sponsor of Respiratory Health Association’s annual Hustle Chicago® stair climb for more than twenty years. The event is held each February and has raised more than $17 million to support the local fight against lung disease.

Fleet Feet is committed to finding shoes with the perfect fit for runners, walkers, fitness enthusiasts—and now medical professionals—across Chicagoland.