Asthma Expert Joins Obama Roundtable on Protecting Public Health

As part of National Public Health Week, President Barack Obama on April 7 attended a roundtable at Howard University along with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., and invited guests, to discuss the need to address climate change to protect public health.

Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD, founder and director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), also active with the American Lung Association, joined the roundtable to share her firsthand experience of the health impacts of environmental factors on her patients with asthma.

“Clinicians like me can help children manage their asthma, but we cannot control the external environmental factors that can trigger asthma attacks,” said Bryant-Stephens. “By raising awareness of the health impacts of these environmental factors and taking steps to address them through programs like the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and others, we can take a huge step toward protecting millions of children across our nation, including the nearly 285,000 children with asthma in Pennsylvania.”

“The Surgeon General’s participation in today’s roundtable marks a critical next step in our national commitment to tackle the serious threat climate change poses to our nation’s public health,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Too many people think climate change is something that will happen far into the future, but we see impacts on our health today. We must continue to inform the public and take action now to prevent the worst effects of climate change.”

Evidence warns that climate change will make it harder to clean up the air and protect human health. The American Lung Association’s 2014 “State of the Air” report found that ozone worsened in the most polluted metropolitan areas compared to previous years. The warmer summers in 2010 and 2012 contributed to higher ozone readings and more frequent high ozone days for the period analyzed. The report also found that drought, wildfires and grass fires in the western U.S. gave rise to spikes in high particle pollution, another dangerous trend that can aggravate asthma, cause difficulty breathing and even cause premature death.

The American Lung Association continues to urge the Obama Administration to put into place strong clean air protections, including adopting a strong final Clean Power Plan and more protective National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone pollution. Doing so will help clean up harmful pollutants that impact the health of communities across the country.

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