Advocacy Against Asthma to Begin in West County
January 30, 2003
More than 12,000 children and 23,000 adults in Contra Costa County have asthma, so the health department is enlisting the community to take action and fight environmental factors that trigger asthma. A community asthma coalition will conduct its first meeting Thursday, February 6, at the Community Heritage Senior Apartments in North Richmond.
Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department, launched a West County asthma project late last year with the goal of reaching four neighborhoods with identified risk factors for asthma such as heavy industry, high rates of tobacco use, and older housing. The four neighborhoods are North Richmond, Parchester Village, Iron Triangle and West San Pablo.
The objective of the coalition is to address environmental "triggers" relating to asthma, with an ultimate goal of improving the health of children in West Contra Costa. The meeting is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. February 6 at the Community Heritage Senior Apartments, 1555 Third Street in North Richmond.
The project is partially funded by grants from The California Endowment Community Action to Fight Asthma program and Improving Asthma Care for Children, a national program coordinated by the Center for Health Care Strategies and funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Nineteen West County residents have undergone 40 hours of training in recent months to prepare for their roles as asthma community advocates. Public health educators have trained the advocates to understand what asthma is and how it is treated, how to do community outreach, and what can be done to reduce indoor and outdoor asthma triggers.
"The best way to help prevent chronic diseases like asthma is to make the community part of the solution," said Kim Cox, Asthma Program Manager for Contra Costa Health Services. "These advocates are using all their connections in the four neighborhoods to promote health and wellness. The result we are seeking is to create a coalition to reduce asthma in West County."
"The community advocates have very specific roles and responsibilities," Cox said. "One of the most important is to help create awareness that asthma can be addressed through individual behavior changes such as smoking away from children and advocating for policy changes such as better industrial pollution controls."
Johnny White, a Community Health Worker with the project, agreed that activism by community residents is key to changing policies that affect local communities. For example, he said, the residents are trained to demonstrate hands-on ways to improve indoor air environments, but they are also instructed not to give medical advice.
"Asthma community advocates are the heart and soul of this new coalition," said White. "Who has more at stake than the people living in communities with multiple environmental problems?"
For more information about the county's Asthma Program, the February 6 meeting or the community advocates, call the program at 925-313-6764.
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