Springfield, Massachusetts: Why It's the #1 Asthma Capital

 

Last year’s top Asthma Capital, Springfield, Massachusetts, is again the most challenging place in the U.S. to live with asthma.

It ranks #1 for its high asthma prevalence and high number of asthma-related emergency room visits. The area has the highest number of asthma-related emergency room visits in the U.S., as well as a high rate of asthma prevalence overall. High pollen counts are also a big factor for Springfield’s residents with asthma.

To get a better understanding of the asthma problem there, we talked with a local family, senator, allergist and city councilor. To read the full report, visit asthmacapitals.com.

Jan Hanson, M.A., President of the AAFA New England Chapter

jan-hanson“The prevalence of asthma rates among adults with asthma is higher in Massachusetts than anywhere else in the U.S.," said Jan Hanson. "Forty-one percent of Massachusetts children in school or daycare with asthma have missed at least one day of school in the past year. Uncontrolled asthma symptoms interfere with active, healthy lives. AAFA New England is committed to making sure the facts about asthma are known, that the impact of asthma is understood, and that we provide the programming and resources necessary for individuals and families to better manage this chronic health condition, so that asthma outcomes and quality of life are greatly improved.”  

Sherondia and Quincy Elliot

quincy-elliott-smSherondia and her son, Quincy, live in Springfield. Getting allergy testing done was a turning point for managing Quincy’s asthma. Sherondia shared that “when he did the whole allergy testing, that clued me in to a lot of things about his health and why certain things would trigger his asthma. It was because of the pollen, the trees, the grass.” During the spring when pollen is prevalent, simple activities like going outside for gym class are difficult for Quincy. As a result, he keeps both a quick-relief inhaler and a nebulizer at school. And it is a good thing he does, because “he is not able to run a long distance and do what all the other kids are doing,” shared Sherondia. He often “has to take a break and go to the nurse to use his inhaler.”

David Guydan, AAFA New England Executive Director

DavidGuydan-sm“True to our mission, AAFA New England is committed to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergies in all six New England states" said David Guydan. "We plan to take our support group concept to many communities, including Springfield, to provide ‘boots on the ground’ education, support and advocacy where it is most needed.”

Senator Eric Lesser (D-MA)

sen-lesser-sm“I think the single most important thing for us, as policy makers, is to be well armed with good information about the problem and the scope of the problem,” Senator Eric Lesser stated. “We rely on the research to inform the decision making going forward.” Senator Lesser wants to “get people in to see their primary care doctor and young kids to see their pediatrician, so that issues can be spotted as soon as possible before they become debilitating emergencies that have to get treated in emergency rooms.” Senator Lesser thinks “we need to do more to raise public consciousness” about asthma. “You have to take on the socioeconomic issues. You have to take on the environmental issues. And you have to take on the issues like pollution that require a major mobilization to get done,” he shared.

David Robertson, MD, MPH, of Allergy Immunology Associates of New England

Dr-Robertson-Springfield-smDavid Robertson, MD, MPH, of Allergy Immunology Associates of New England shed some light on why Springfield ranks so high. “It’s kind of a perfect storm in Springfield,” said Dr. Robertson. “One component of it is allergic disease. About 60 to 80% of kids with asthma will have an allergic contribution to their symptoms, and about 40 to 60% – roughly about half – of adults with asthma will have an allergic contribution. So it’s not surprising that Springfield was the #1 city for asthma and the #5 city for allergies. There’s definitely a link there.”

Jesse Lederman, Springfield City Councilor At-Large and Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee

lederman-headshot-sm“Springfield and the greater metropolitan region’s continued asthma prevalence is a result of numerous circumstances,” states Councilor Jesse Lederman, “including geography, infrastructure, housing stock, lack of access to long and short-term health care and poverty. Some research has shown that 40% of asthma exacerbations are attributed to home-based health hazards,” he points out. “A HUD housing analysis in Springfield has found that a large percentage of housing stock remains aged with a high need for rehabilitation. Springfield and the greater metropolitan region have some of the oldest housing stock in the state, which can leave units susceptible to conditions that lead to and exacerbate asthma.”

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