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Asthma Group Three Mile Walk

By Leon Tulton

Written and Submitted by Leon Tulton

The East Harlem Asthma Working Group (EHAWG), the Office of New York City Councilmember Philip Reed, and the Office of NYS Senator David Patterson will be sponsoring its first annual three-mile march, entitled C.A.M.IN.A.R for Asthma, on Saturday, September 6, 2003 to raise awareness about the asthma epidemic plaguing the East Harlem community.

“The reason for this walk is to not only put a spotlight on how asthma is a major health problem in our community, but to show the human faces that are affected by this respiratory disease,” Delfina Cruz, Vice Chair of EHAWG, said. “Like the March of Dimes’ annual walkathon that brings attention to its cause, we hope that our walk will do the same for ours.” She stated that the name of the walk represents the theme of the event. “C.A.M.IN.A.R, which means ‘to walk’ in Spanish, is an acronym that means ‘Community Actively Marching to INspire Awareness and Responsibility’” Cruz said. “We want to do just that´┐Żinspire awareness about environmental triggers of asthma and let the public know about those who are responsible for these environmental problems affecting their health.”

Philip Landrigan, M.D., a pediatrician and chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained that diesel exhaust from sources, such as city buses, is one contributing factor that can affect respiratory health. “Diesel exhaust is dangerous to human health, especially to children, because it is made up of tiny particles that easily invade and irritate the lungs,” Landrigan said. “It’s unconscionable that East Harlem, which has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in New York City, continues to be disproportionately exposed to this hazardous pollutant.”
Cruz added that the lax enforcement of the city’s idling laws is another contributing factor to the community’s high asthma rate. “Despite DOT’s [NYC Department of Transportation] regulations prohibiting vehicles from idling for more than three minutes, many New York City Transit (NYCT) buses that rest at their depots have their engines running for long periods of time,” Cruz said. “This lax enforcement of the idling law is exposing East Harlem residents to dangerous soot which can trigger an asthma attack.”

Elected officials invited to participate in the march includes U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both senators have been active in helping the East Harlem community in their fight against asthma. In April, Schumer announced his plan to persuade the Senate to appropriate $200 million to expand the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s Inner City Asthma Intervention Program. The pilot program hires and trains asthma counselors who teach parents how to maximize the effectiveness of their children’s medical treatment and to reduce exposure to environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. East Harlem is one of the sites participating in the program. In May, Clinton spoke at an asthma symposium held in East Harlem. The senator promised residents that she would join them in the fight against the respiratory disease plaguing the East Harlem community.

The walk route will start in front of the councilmember’s office on 105 E. 116th Street and end in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Building at 163 W. 125th Street. At the end of the route, walkers will hear remarks from other elected officials, community residents, environmentalists, and public health advocates. Organizations and city agencies that will attend the event include Mount Sinai, Little Sisters of the Assumption, Children’s Aid Society, Community Healthcare Network Asthma Initiative, and 1199 SEIU.

The event is co-sponsored by the Offices of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, NYS Assemblyman Keith Wright, NYS Senator David Patterson, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and NYC Councilmember Bill Perkins.

Individuals or groups interested in registering for the event should call 212-828-9800.

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