2017-10-04 / Front Page

Constantinides Introduces Legislation To Combat Asthma

Councilman Costa Constantinides announced on September 27 the introduction of a legislative package to combat asthma. He was joined in support at City Hall by legislation co-sponsor and the City Council Health Committee Chair Councilman Corey Johnson, St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, Astoria Houses Tenants Association, American Lung Association, Asthma Coalition of Queens, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York League of Conservation Voters, and WeACT for Environmental Justice.

INT. 1708 would require that all public schools have nebulizers available for students and school nurses must be trained to operate them appropriately.  INT. 1709 would require the Department of Health to create annual reports on the prevalence of asthma and asthma-related hospitalizations aggregated by demographic groups including age, race, and geography.  

Over 80,000 children have asthma in New York City and 7,000 children are hospitalized for it every year.  Asthma-related illnesses are a leading cause of children missing school; children with severe asthma can miss up to 30 days of school in NYC.   With nebulizers available to all public school students, they can receive treatment while in school rather than going home or to a hospital.  Reports about asthma’s prevalence will help raise awareness of health risks to parents so that they can be prepared.

Constantinides said, “We must ensure that our children have the resources they need to succeed in school.  Equipping public schools with appropriate medical devices, including nebulizers will give kids in distress from asthma the critical treatment that they need.  Data and knowledge about the prevalence of asthma will help families be aware of asthma risks so children can get screened early if necessary.  Thank you to my colleague, Councilmember Johnson, and our health and environmental advocacy groups for their partnership on this important public health issue.”

Constantinides noted that New York State has already recognized the need for nebulizers in schools.  The State Legislature passed a similar bill that mandated nebulizers be available at all public schools, however the mandate was unfunded and never went into effect. (Article 19, Section 919 of the New York State Education Law).

There is evidence that respiratory illness, including asthma, is linked to air quality and pollution.  There are higher rates of hospitalization for respiratory disease among communities near large pollution sources like power plants.  The annual report on the prevalence of asthma proposed in the legislation, will provide more data regarding concentrations of asthma-related hospitalizations and possible environmental justice issues, explained Constantinides.

Constantinides has made asthma awareness a community priority.  The announcement also served as a kick-off for his Asthma Awareness Back-to-School Fair the following day to help parents screen for asthma and learn about its health effects.

“The simple act of breathing, which most of us take for granted, is a struggle for too many in our city, especially our children,” said Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Health. “This package of legislation will, among its many achievements, ensure that every child has the right to learn and grow in our schools without fear of untreated issues with asthma. I’d like to thank Council Member Constantinides for his strong leadership on this important issue. He is a true champion for the vulnerable and it’s a privilege to support him in this much needed effort.”

“Our State of the Air report found  the New York City metro area to be among the worst when measured for ozone and particle pollution, both of which can cause dangerous asthma attacks,” said Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President, Northeast Region of the American Lung Association. ”The more information we have on asthma and asthma related hospitalizations, the more likely it is that we can prevent them and help those suffering from the disease remain healthy.”

“Controlling asthma often comes down to preparation.  Pushing schools to have nebulizers on hand elevates their ability to manage kids with asthma on site, alleviating  stress - and possibly minimizing trauma –  for the child, family and school,” said Claudia Guglielmo, Director of the Asthma Coalition of Queens.

“We applaud the Councilman for introducing this important legislation. Early detection and treatment are crucial for the health and safety of our youngest New Yorkers. As the primary provider of pediatric long-term and rehabilitative care in the region, St. Mary’s works to educate our community about the prevalence and risks of asthma. We’re grateful to have a champion like Councilman Constantinides fighting for our kids,” said Elvira Fardella-Roveto, RN, FNP-BC, Administrator and Director of Professional  Services, St. Mary’s Home Care, St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children.

“There is a strong correlation between rising asthma rates – particularly in children – and communities with disproportionately high levels of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Better data collection will enhance the ability of policymakers identify environmental asthma triggers and take steps to address them,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Councilmember Constantinides for introducing these bills to improve how we track and manage asthma in New York City.”

“Asthma remains a health threat to tens of thousands of New York City children and this chronic lung disease is exacerbated by pollutants in the air.  We enthusiastically welcome the legislative proposals of Councilmember Costa Constantinides, which would help us better understand which New Yorkers are most seriously affected and would reduce asthma emergencies by ensuring that all public schools are equipped with nebulizers,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“I want to thank Councilmember Constantinides for introducing these two critical bills that will support awareness and treatment of asthma. For too long, we have not had an accurate count of how many children and adults in New York City are suffering from asthma. This bill would put the city on the path to understand the challenges of asthma, and with more evidence, we will be better positioned to tackle the problem,” said Peggy Shepard, Executive Director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

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