BRONX — The Bronx has some of the worst asthma rates in the state, and a new bill that passed the State Senate Wednesday would require the health department to try to find out why.
The measure would direct the New York State Department of Health to study and prepare a plan for dealing with the high incidents of asthma in the Bronx. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. José M. Serrano, now moves to the State Assembly for a vote.
“Asthma has an adverse impact in the Bronx and especially in my community, where it’s a big problem amongst children,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, whose district includes a stretch of the Cross Bronx Expressway.
The health department study must include an analysis of disparities in income, race and ethnicity, public and private housing and proximity to major sources of air pollution, and it must evaluate the quality of existing medical facilities, according to the bill.
Between 2009 and 2011, the Bronx had the highest age-adjusted asthma death rate in New York City at a rate of 43.5 per 1 million, according to an October 2013 report from the state health department. The rest of the city was 19.8 per 1 million and the state 7.2 per 1 million.
The borough also had the highest age-adjusted rate of asthma emergency room visits was 231.4 per 10,000.
Serrano acknowledged that a lot of data already existed about asthma but hoped that his bill would help bring it together and make it easier to understand, in addition to shining a spotlight on how the health issue disproportionately affects Bronx residents.
Dr. Hal Strelnick, professor of clinical family and social medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, attributed the borough’s high asthma rates to a combination of environmental and poverty issues, as well as truck traffic on the Cross Bronx.
“This is a chronic problem that keeps recurring," he said, "and any effort to focus on it and to come up with better and more sustainable solutions would be valuable."