New Grant Helps Grow RHA’s Asthma Program Reach to Youth in Need Across Illinois

Asthma is the number one chronic illness-related reason students in Illinois miss school – adding up to over 313,000 days out of the classroom each year. Working with children and teens to better understand and manage asthma can help them stay in class, prevent attacks and remain healthy.

Asthma program educators

RHA’s asthma program staff will provide training in schools across Illinois.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently awarded Respiratory Health Association a Healthy Community Investments Grant to bring school-based asthma education to more people in Chicago and throughout Illinois. RHA will focus on sharing prevention programs with schools in high need communities across the state during the 2019-20 school year. This focus comes in part from a 2018 RHA report which shows the majority of asthma-related emergency room visits are African American children – at a rate five times higher than white children.

Two National Health Corps (NHC) members and four RHA asthma program staff will work with school administrators and nurses to schedule sessions and deliver the evidence-based Fight Asthma Now© (FAN) program to students. FAN helps students identify and avoid triggers and learn how to manage their medications. Students also receive a free spacer to help medicines work more effectively.

With the new grant funding, RHA will provide training to an additional 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students living with asthma over the course of the school-year. Data from past programs shows that 80% of students will better understand triggers and warning signs of asthma attacks, and the value of long-term medications and spacers. At least 75% of students will say they want to talk with an adult in their home about an Asthma Action Plan and asthma medications.

RHA has delivered FAN to more than 16,000 students in Chicago to date, and has also provided training to health department staff in southern Illinois. Asthma educators serving schools in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, California also received training to support new asthma programs in these areas.

If you are an administrator, nurse, teacher, parent or community member interested in bringing the FAN program to a school near you, please contact Mary Rosenwinkel, Program Coordinator at [email protected] or (312) 628-0227. You can also learn more and submit a request with our online form.

Thank you note from student

Students who participated in the 2018-19 FAN sessions shared thanks with RHA staff.

Thank you note from student

Students who participated in the 2018-19 FAN sessions shared thanks with RHA staff.

RHA to Study Impact of Air Pollution on Public Health in Chicago

All but two of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 1,800 buses run on diesel fuel. Respiratory Health Association knows the health and environmental effects of vehicle pollution in the air and is focused on finding healthier transportation options for Chicago.

This summer, the Joyce Foundation awarded a one-year grant to help RHA explore the impacts of air pollution in communities throughout the city of Chicago. Funds will support a study of how diesel buses affect the lung health of residents and help increase efforts to educate leaders and the public on the potential benefits of electric vehicles.

Traffic at nighit in city

RHA’s study will explore the potential health benefits of using electric buses in place of diesel-powered vehicles.

“We see electric buses as a great opportunity, if not a necessity, for a healthier Chicago,” commented Erica Salem, RHA Senior Director, Strategy, Programs & Policy. “The Joyce Foundation’s generous grant allows us to examine how our city can move toward transportation options that provide cleaner air and healthy lungs for all Chicagoans.”

RHA will work closely with the University of Chicago’s Spatial Data Science and the Chicago Department of Public Health to study the health effect diesel buses have across different Chicago neighborhoods. Teams will compare data of those living with lung diseases who also live near busy bus routes, bus garages or maintenance shops to residents living in lower bus traffic communities.

This work builds on RHA’s efforts to secure Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pledge for cleaner bus options. Chicago lags behind other major US cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have announced plans to move to all electric buses sometime in the next 20 years.

RHA will release a final report in the spring of 2020.

Adam’s Marathon Journey Keeps His Friend’s Memory Alive

by Amanda Sabino

Adam Giglia and his friend Tim McCarren had just finished a half marathon in Adam’s hometown of Rochester, New York. They took a moment to look back on an inconceivable 13.1 miles.

“Can you imagine,” they said between breaths, “doing a full marathon?” The two laughed.

Adam never considered himself much of a runner, though sports have always been in his blood. By age three – much like the rest of western New York – he was in skates and playing hockey.

When the Miller family moved-in across the street during Adam’s sixth grade year, he and new neighbor Erik Miller bonded over sports. Adam and Erik were only a year apart in school, and became fast friends.

Living across the street from each other meant getting together often, which was also the case for their families.

Runner poses after finishing run

Adam pauses for a post-run photo.

Adam’s father Lew and Erik’s father Jack would often take the boys golfing. It was competitive, but always fun. Jack would sometimes talk about his glory days running while growing up in Chicago – even showing his many photos from distance races over the years.

“He was passionate about it,” Adam says.

A couple months after running the half marathon with Tim, Adam stood alongside Jack. After five years battling lung cancer, Jack entered hospice care.

Adam knew what he had to do, but the steps to get there seemed daunting. Everything he read said how challenging marathons could be. Was it possible?

His mind was set. He promised to run the 2019 Chicago Marathon in Jack’s honor.

That commitment was the ultimate currency of their friendship to Jack. Though he ran the Boston Marathon, he had never done so in his native Chicago. Adam was hopeful Jack would have the chance.

“You’re going to win next year,” he said.

In September, Jack lost his life to lung cancer. Now, Adam runs not only for him, but for his grieving friend Erik and lung cancer survivors everywhere.

“I’m committed to do whatever it takes to cross that finish line.”

Training has lived up to its reputation. He describes it as the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. He wants to finish in less than four hours, and after months of sacrifice he’s getting close to his goal.

His friends and family will be at the marathon to support him. Tim, who has played chief motivator during training, will once again run alongside Adam. But they’ll be missing Jack.

Runners pose after running half marathon

Tim, his wife Marissa and Adam after the half marathon in Rochester.

Adam imagines Jack would want to celebrate by buying a round of beers.

“Were this 20 years ago,” he says, “he’d be waiting for me at the finish and saying, ’what took you so long?’”

Those watching the marathon can spot Adam in his custom t-shirt with Chicago Bears colors. Jack was a huge fan of the Bears.

Adam sees every step of 26.2 miles as an opportunity to raise funds for lung cancer with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team. Money raised for research may prevent someone else from going through what Jack went through.

“This run’s for Jack.”

To support Adam’s run for lung cancer research, click here.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through schools, workplaces and communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and about getting an annual flu shot.

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

Tips for Back to School with Asthma

Asthma causes more missed school days than any other chronic illness, leading to an estimated 13.8 million days missed per year. For children with asthma, heading back to school can be safer and more fun if their parents do a little homework of their own.

It’s important to take the following steps before the school year begins to keep kids healthy in the classroom:

Young woman uses inhaler while in school

Having an inhaler on hand in school is important for kids with asthma.

• If your child experiences frequent asthma symptoms, visit a doctor as soon as possible.

• Make sure your child has a written Asthma Action Plan, and share a copy with the school nurse.

• Help your child practice taking his or her asthma medication, and make sure your child understands how important it is to keep the medicine close by at all times.

• Give consent for your student to carry their inhaler. Call the school or visit the school/district website to find the necessary consent form. Save the prescription label for your child’s asthma medication to provide with the form.

• If possible, keep an extra quick-relief inhaler where needed, whether in the home or at school.

• Talk your child’s teachers to make sure they understand your child’s asthma ‘triggers.’ Make sure teachers can recognize asthma symptoms and know what to do if they happen.

• Remind your children of the importance of general hygiene (hand washing, covering mouth while coughing, etc.) to prevent common cold and flu viruses that can make asthma symptoms worse.

• Make sure your child stays in the routine of taking long-term control medications, if prescribed. Skipping doses can lead to increased symptoms and missed school time.

• Remember to get your child an annual flu shot. Kids with asthma are at increased risk for upper respiratory viral infections, including the flu.

• Ask your school administrators to bring the Respiratory Health Association’s Fight Asthma Now© program to their students with asthma and Asthma Management to school personnel, parents and other caregivers of children with asthma.

Asthma is manageable. With proper planning, medication and awareness, both parents and children can breathe easy this school year.

Lauren’s Helping Kids Breathe Easier

In April 2018, 9–year-old Lauren Wilson shook hands with Senator Daniel Biss and sat down to educate him about a new law being considered in the Illinois legislature – Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools. The legislation allows schools across the state to keep a supply of albuterol on hand to deal with asthma episodes and other respiratory emergencies, similar to how they keep an EpiPen on hand for allergy emergencies. Advocates like Lauren helped get the law passed in May 2018– now, they’re trying to make sure that it gets implemented. For her first persuasive writing assignment in 3rd grade, she wrote a 3-page paper on why they need to use the new law to stock albuterol in her school.

Father, daughter and senator pose during lung health advocacy meeting.

Lauren and father Jeremy meet with Senator Biss

“Why does it take so long?” That’s Lauren’s newest question for Illinois State legislators. For kids living with asthma who rely on medications like albuterol, waiting for the law to take effect impacts their ability to live well. Lauren carries her inhaler in her backpack and keeps a backup with the school nurse, but those medications are specific to Lauren. The new law lets schools keep ‘undesignated’ medication – meaning it is not prescribed to a specific person – that can be administered to anyone in respiratory distress. This is an important fail-safe in case someone runs out of medication, forgets or loses an inhaler or, as often happens, experiences breathing difficulty for the first time and hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Lauren wants her school to be as prepared for an asthma episode as she is. Lauren has been an advocate for those living with asthma for most of her life, which stems from her own experience with respiratory issues. Lauren was in and out of the hospital and emergency care as an infant. “It was the scariest experience of my life,” her father, Jeremy remembers. “When they tell you that you should say goodbye to your child after hearing she has gone into respiratory failure.”

After her respiratory failure at six months old, doctors diagnosed Lauren with reactive airway because she was too young at the time for a full asthma diagnosis. She began treatment at that time. At four years old, her pulmonologist made the expected diagnosis of asthma. Throughout this journey, Lauren’s mom, Stephanie, began researching ways the entire family could be proactive in Lauren’s care. They worked closely with a pediatrician to develop an asthma action plan and watched Lauren’s symptoms to identify her triggers. Stephanie’s research also led her to Respiratory Health Association, and the entire family got involved. Lauren’s last hospitalization came last fall. Her asthma has been mostly under control since, but it always requires careful monitoring. In the meantime, Lauren continues to participate in sports and spend time with her friends. “I feel pretty fine doing sports,” Lauren says. “I usually don’t have triggers with sports, mostly just allergies and colds.”

Stephanie reminds her, “If you really pushed, we’d give you 2 pumps of albuterol for stair climbs.” Lauren is very proud of the collection of medals she has from sports and charity events. “I keep them all around the house,” she says mischievously. “We’ll find them everywhere,” Stephanie confirms. In October 2018 RHA presented her an award for her asthma advocacy efforts. The Next Generation Advocate awards are given to young people who stand up for a future free of lung disease and to protect our clean air. Lauren keeps that award in the front of the house, where everyone can see it.

Youth advocate and policy director pose with award for efforts to support lung health

Lauren and Matt Maloney, RHA Directory, Health Policy during the 2018 awards ceremony

She also has medals for Hustle Chicago, RHA’s stair climb, and the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour, which she participated in as an 18-mile rider the first weekend in August. But there are challenges that come with asthma, summer heat, and physical activity. “We didn’t go out and ride today,” Jeremy mentions. “But she did 9 miles a few days ago.” Before July’s heat wave hit the Midwest, Lauren rode a couple times a week. But as the weather got hotter, the air quality worsened and became unhealthy for people with lung disease. Now that it’s cooled down and air quality has improved, she’s back to good riding conditions. It’s just another thing her parents monitor to help keep her asthma under control.

Jeremy and Stephanie joined Lauren for their 5th year of riding CowaLUNGa. She rode 18 miles on the back of Jeremy’s bike and plans to ride the 18 miles on her own bike next year. With plenty of time to train, she’s ready for the challenge. Lauren proudly describes her bike as blue and silver. “I just learned how to shift gears on it. I went on my first hill recently, and down. That’ll make the hill on the first day not as bad,” she says.

Another milestone she’s ready for?

“She wants that big 20 year trophy,” Jeremy says of the celebratory trophies RHA gives five, 10, 15 and 20 year riders. “And I believe she’ll get it.”

Besides asking her fellow riders to join her in supporting RHA’s advocacy efforts, she offers this advice: “Get out and ride. Wear comfy clothes: bike shorts, gloves and a helmet.” To join The Wilsons in their efforts to fund asthma research, advocacy and education, support their fundraising here.

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.

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.

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. 

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