The latest study by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2007 found that Bed-Stuy has one of the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma amongst children in Brooklyn, with Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights retaining the highest rate of hospitalization amongst adults.
Asthma is most prevalent in post-pubescent African-American females, constituting only 12.7 percent of the national population but 26 percent of all of asthma-related deaths, according to Dr. LeRoy Graham, founder and medical director of Not One More Life, an asthma education program.
And according to Dr. Graham, minority communities are the least informed about preventative health.
“Four thousand people die annually,” Dr. Graham said during the morning presentation. “Absolutely no one should die of asthma. Ninety-nine per cent of patients could be fixed.”
The “fix” is about educating adults and children on self-management of the disease, such as using inhaled corticosteroids to prevent symptoms for patients with persistent asthma and learning more about reducing exposure to environmental triggers.
Last Saturday, Not One More Life and The Brenda Pillors Asthma Education Program teamed up with to promote asthma awareness in Bed-Stuy.
The event served as a launch of Not One More Life’s expansion into Brooklyn and was coordinated by Evening Star minister Christopher Lundy, Dr. Graham and Dr. Ellen Becker, director of the Brenda Pillors Asthma Education Program at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.
Dr. Graham gave a presentation on asthma education and awareness, and then he and other physicians offered free asthma screenings for members of the congregation. Congressman Ed Towns, who has helped fund a number of asthma coaltions, dropped by in a show of support.
Although there often is an emphasis on race and ethnicity in the prevalence of asthma, Dr. Graham said that the biggest treatment failure comes in not taking the medication and not taking the medication correctly, regardless of patients’ race.
Many patients only deal with the disease in dire situations, when they are in the emergency room because of a recent attack, said Dr. Becker.
“Current health care is not organized in a way to deal with chronic disease and especially in emergency care. Doctors are distracted, pulled in different directions and can’t address all the issues,” she said. “The most effective messages have to happen outside the hospital when patients are rested and able to process the information.”
“Communities of faith have a vested interest in making people’s lives better,” he said. “They still provide a social safety net for the community and foster community well being.”
Lundy and co-founder of the Trinity Community Development and Empowerment Group Reverend Gwendolyn Hadley-Hall recognized that the critical information and resources were not reaching the community, and saw an opportunity to do something about it.
“Information flies high and doesn’t get into the trenches,” Lundy said. “We’re doing the trench work.”
Eugenia Mathurin, a resident specializing in pediatrics at , attended the event to learn more about asthma’s prevalence in Brooklyn.
“In pediatrics [at Woodhull] we have a lot of asthma cases,” she said. “Now it’s winter, and so many children and students come in with asthma.”
Mary Webb, a member of Evening Star’s congregation, was diagnosed with asthma as a child. She attended the event hoping to learn about alternatives for managing her illness. After four emergency room visits in one year, she said she is worried about whether her medication is working. Eleven of her friends have died after their inhalers were changed, she said.
“It seems like nobody cares that we’re dying and that we suffer,” Webb said of the medical community. But then, she thought about her statement and added, “It’s good to know somebody cares.”