Building a Healthy Future Together

Your support made it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond this past year. Together we faced new challenges, found new solutions, and made progress toward a future free of lung disease. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people with lung disease live better lives.


Thanks to support from the Learn More Breathe BetterSM program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, we created resources that provide information on how people with COPD can live well at home. Each informational packet aims at keeping people with COPD healthy and provides guidance to help build exercise routines, manage breathing, put together a nutrition plan, and more.

Improving Our Asthma Programs

We collaborated with University of Chicago to conduct a formal evaluation of our two asthma programs – Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management. The evaluation showed kids and parents participating in these programs learned a lot about asthma triggers, medications, and staying healthy. The results were even better with repeat sessions.

A New Approach to Quitting

We began testing a new format for our Courage to Quit® program that helps people stop smoking. The new “rolling” model allows people to attend group Courage to Quit sessions with more flexibility, which increases accessibility and makes the program work for more people. We’re pushing forward to expand this idea and increase access to the program in the coming year.

Educational Webinar Series

In August, we launched a new educational webinar series. Lung health content reached nearly 1,000 people on important topics like COVID vaccines, women’s lung health, lung cancer screening, and environmental justice issues. Because the programs were entirely online, we were able to reach a national audience.

Funding Asthma Education

Asthma is the No. 1 cause of school absences due to chronic illness. RHA led an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.

group participating in event to help people living with lung disease

Lung Cancer & COPD Research

We awarded two grants to fund promising research into lung cancer and one new COPD research award. One of the lung cancer studies is looking at a specific gene mutation that can cause cancer even in non-smokers. Our annual Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD was awarded to support the research efforts of Dr. Nadia Hansel at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

School-based Asthma Policy Study

We conducted a study to see how well school staff understand current rules about asthma inhalers in schools. We found that 60% of school nurses in Illinois surveyed didn’t fully understand current rules that allow students to bring and use their inhalers in school. We will now focus some of our program resources on educating school health staff to better serve students.

Investing in Clean Air

In April, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency released a plan to invest $88.6 million in electric public transportation, school buses, and charging infrastructure for electric cars. For years RHA has given testimony and fought for money to support clean transportation because transportation is a leading cause of air pollution. This investment is a huge victory for clean air.

woman with stat about helping people with lung disease

Women’s Lung Health Research

Thanks to amazing growth in our Catch Your Breath® women’s lung health initiative, we were able to partner with CHEST Foundation to fund a new research award addressing gender disparities in lung disease. Lung disease impacts one in every six US women, and this award will increase research into the unique aspects of lung disease in women.

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people living with lung disease, you can donate here.

Together We Are Working to Prevent Lung Disease and Promote Clean Air

This year we have faced extraordinary challenges, and made remarkable progress. Your dedicated support makes it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people with lung disease live better lives.

COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 presented an unprecedented lung health challenge. We immediately turned toward providing credible information and support to vulnerable communities, including people with chronic lung disease, and our team worked to understand and address health equity issues causing more harm to underserved communities. RHA is also providing funding for important research into COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Emergency Asthma Medication in Schools

In Illinois, more than 280,000 children are reported to have asthma. After successfully advocating for the law to allow schools to keep emergency asthma medication on hand, we worked with Illinois Department of Public Health to develop guidelines for schools and have proposed legislation to make medications available so that all schools can create a safer environment for students.

Peoria Coal Plant Closure & Settlement

For more than 50 years, the E.D. Edwards power plant has burned coal and contributed to dangerous levels of air pollution in central Illinois. This year, with the help of environmental partners and our pro bono legal counsel, we won an $8+ million settlement that will be reinvested in the local community, and the plant will close.

Chicago Transportation Authority Air Pollution & Health Study

With support from the Joyce Foundation and University of Chicago, we studied the relationship between exposure to air pollution and chronic illness. The study was the first of its kind in Chicago and showed that people living near high volume bus routes and garages have more lung health problems. We will use the findings to advocate for cleaner transportation and stronger air protections.

Asthma Education Expanded

Our school-based asthma education reached hundreds of additional students across Illinois. With support from the Illinois State Board of Education, we were able to reach students with asthma in high-need communities from outside St. Louis to Waukegan and everywhere between.

smiling family with award help prevent lung disease

Justin Broome, recognized as a Next Generation Advocate in lung health, and his family at our 2019 Fall Reception.

Vaping Response & Resources

This year we saw youth e-cigarette use skyrocket and an outbreak of vaping-related lung injury. We developed resources aimed at dispelling myths about vaping and e-cigarettes, including a guide for parents to help them talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping. These resources were shared with parents in partnership with local schools.

National Tobacco Programs

We took our evidence-based quit smoking programs to Trinity Health locations across the country. Courage to Quit® is now offered in healthcare settings from California to Connecticut. In addition, hundreds of medical professionals have learned how to talk to patients about quitting through RHA’s Counsel to Quit® course for healthcare professionals.

COPD Hospital-to-Home Guide

We worked with University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Population Health Sciences Division to help COPD patients and caregivers transition to home after a hospital stay. The goal is to help patients stay healthy at home and reduce hospital readmissions.

Lung Cancer Research

We funded Loyola University professor Dr. Maurizio Bocchetta’s lung cancer research. He and his team are investigating whether a certain enzyme can be used to stabilize lung cells and prevent cancer growth. Researchers like Dr. Bocchetta work to increase knowledge and understanding of disease development to support those affected by lung cancer.

Your support made all this possible. Thank you. Together we will keep taking steps to prevent lung disease and promote clean air, whatever the future holds.

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

The need for RHA’s work is greater than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, and our programs and events depend on the support of our community. We understand many are experiencing hardship during these times, but if you are in a position to donate, we need your help. If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease and promote clean air, you can donate here.


Fisk & Crawford Coal-Fired Power Plants Closed August 2012.


Five years ago this month, Respiratory Health Association helped secure the closure of Chicago’s two biggest polluters, the coal-fired Fisk power plant located in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village.

Together they emitted thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) every year, forming ozone smog and fine particle pollution. Their closures have saved an estimated 210 lives, prevented 330 heart attacks and avoided 3,600 pollution-caused asthma attacks – notable health victories worth celebrating at this five-year anniversary mark.

Years of effort by RHA’s staff and advocates as well as our Chicago Clean Power Coalition partners, working with the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, made these victories possible.

Of course, once the confetti was swept up we got right back to work.


Since that time we have achieved additional air quality improvements through our clean energy policy work and by educating individuals, business leaders and elected officials about clean-running vehicles and clean construction policies. Last year, RHA helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), making Illinois a nationwide leader in clean energy by expanding clean renewable solar and wind energy, reducing the use of coal and enacting better energy efficiency policies, all of which will lead to cleaner air.

Unfortunately, dirty coal plants continue to operate in Lake and Will counties as well as downstate, degrading air quality across the region. We are continuing our long-term legal and policy change strategies to combat these polluters. You can help RHA achieve our vision of clean air for all: donate now and sign up for RHA’s e-advocacy team to be part of our efforts.