HCN News & Notes

Springfield Improves from #1 to #12 in Nation in Asthma Impact

SPRINGFIELD — After two years as the nation’s asthma capital, the impact of living with asthma in the Greater Springfield /Hampden County area has improved, with the new designation of the 12th-most challenging place in the U.S. to live with asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This designation is based on asthma prevalence, mortality, and emergency-room use for asthma. This improvement coincides with the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program and other community health worker asthma interventions in the region, the COVID-19 pandemic, and with an improvement in air quality as reported by the American Lung Assoc. State of the Air report.

The Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition (PVAC) is a coalition convened by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts consisting of health professionals and institutions, community groups and residents, public-health organizations, municipal and state agencies, academic institutions, schools, daycare, housing, and environmental groups committed to improving asthma and environmental conditions that affect health in Western Mass. Its mission is to improve quality of life for families, individuals, and communities affected by asthma in the Pioneer Valley.

“Although still a serious problem that affects many families and communities in our region, this improvement shows that the work to improve asthma outcomes is having an impact. This is good news for our local families and communities. However, there are still questions to be answered about addressing the causes of asthma onset and asthma flareups,” the PVAC noted.

“The data on air quality is limited because it draws on one monitor in Springfield and one in Chicopee. Our new PV Air Quality Monitoring project in collaboration with the cities of Springfield and Holyoke and other partners will collect data from 55 sites in Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee and help identify hot spots for poor air quality. The loss of the permit for the proposed biomass plant in Springfield is a win for environmental justice, air quality, and families with asthma. As we see improvements, we must be vigilant to prevent any additional sources of pollution that can impact the vulnerable communities in the region.”

Asthma community health worker and healthy-homes interventions are being embedded in local health care, including Revitalize CDC’s collaborations with the BeHealthy Partnership’s Flex Services asthma-supplies intervention and Holyoke Medical Center’s asthma community health worker/healthy-homes intervention.

“We have to continue to find ways to embed these services and make them standard procedures for people with asthma,” the coalition noted. “Our work with the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program funded by the Shift Health Policy Commission grant has also identified policy actions needed to address the challenges renters face in dealing with poor housing conditions in a landscape of older housing stock, widespread deferred maintenance, lack of affordable housing, and fear of eviction records.”