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Asthma Drops in Englewood, Study Concludes

By Wendell Hutson | October 3, 2014 8:49am
 The Addressing Asthma in Englewood Project hosted a community meeting Oct. 2, 2014.
The Addressing Asthma in Englewood Project hosted a community meeting Oct. 2, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

ENGLEWOOD — The number of Englewood children rushed to the emergency room with asthma-related symptoms dropped in the last four years, a study by Addressing Asthma in Englewood Project found.

The study, presented at a Thursday meeting at a student-operated restaurant inside Kennedy-King College, tracked 134 Englewood households that signed up to participate in a home visit program established by the project.

In June of 2014, 27 percent reported that their children had visited an emergency room for asthma symptoms in the previous four years. That's down from February of 2011, when 40 percent reported emergency room visits.

During the same time period, hospitalization for children with asthma decreased to 3 percent from 30 percent, while smokers living in the household with asthma sufferers dropped to 15 from 40 percent.

 Melba Miles, 64, is an Englewood resident with asthma and a community health advocate.
Melba Miles, 64, is an Englewood resident with asthma and a community health advocate.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

According to the nonprofit Merck Childhood Asthma Network in Washington, D.C., asthma-related hospitalizations rates in Englewood and West Englewood are are twice the rate citywide.

Dr. Victoria Persky, principal investigator for the project, said the results are encouraging but more needs to be done to reduce the number of residents with asthma.

"This is a start, but a lot of work still needs to be done in Englewood," said Persky, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. "One of the things we did during this study was educate residents about asthma and steps they can take to reduce asthma attacks."

Longtime Englewood resident Melba Miles, 64, has asthma and so does her 7-year-old and 13-year-old grandsons. She credited the home-visit program with saving her countless trips to the emergency room.

"My brother was a smoker when he lived with me and my grandsons. Even though he smoked upstairs I would wake up in the morning coughing. Little did I know that the smoke was coming through the vents," Miles said. "Another thing I learned from the program was when you spray certain aerosols it can trigger an asthma attack. I now read the labels on all sprays in my house."

Miles added that in 2013, when the city sprayed pesticide outside to protect residents from the West Nile Virus, she became sick.

"Those fumes were bad for me to inhale because of my asthma, and I had problems breathing all summer," Miles said.

The home visits were conducted by outreach workers like the Rev. Gay Chisum, a 22-year Englewood resident, whose job was to visit asthma households.

In January, Chisum said she had a close call when she was outside a home she was visiting and gunfire erupted.

"The resident I was visiting had cats and my allergies started acting up, so we went outside to sit in the car. As we were talking gunshots began to fly right in front of us and we had to duck down in the car," said Chisum, now an outreach coordinator for the Pediatric Asthma Clinic at St. Bernard Hospital and Healthcare Center. "Thank God we were not injured."

The stress associated with living in a violent community could cause someone with asthma to possibly have an asthma attack, added Persky.

John Paul Jones, president of the nonprofit Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, said pollution from trains that pass through Englewood is also a problem.

"Fumes from all the trains that come through Englewood is the biggest environmental problem facing our community," Jones said. "The rail yard expansion of Norfolk Southern will not make things any better."

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