Breathing Easy: A Strategic Plan to Reduce Childhood Asthma Rates in New York City


Asthma is one of most common childhood illnesses across the United States, particularly among children living in low income housing. New York City is a prime example of a large urban city in which asthma continues to be a major problem, with nearly 17% of children having been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives; many of these children living in some of the more condensed and low income neighborhoods.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 5.08.59 PM In 2016, two community based coalitions in New York City, WE ACT and Coalition for Asthma Free Housing, collaborated to create a bill that would speak to reducing asthma rates within neighborhoods that offer affordable housing called the Asthma-Free Housing Act of 2016, Intro 385B.


Image credits: NYC Health

Below are a few objectives the act intends to address;

  • Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 5.09.15 PMprioritize prevention measures in homes of susceptible persons – (asthma, COPD, etc)
  • require landlords to inspect for Indoor Allergen Hazards and correct them and their causes using approved methods
  • require NYC Housing and Preservation Department (HPD) to inspect for Indoor Allergen Hazards and their causes, and issue appropriate violations

Image credits: NYC Health

The City of Portland has pushed similar legislation to improve affordable housing for their community members. The City Council approved an agreement that resolved concerns of cost, time, collaboration, & employment by establishing a partnership between various stakeholders. This partnership allowed for the creation of a Community Workforce Agreement that lead to construction and upkeep of thousands of high quality pollutant free housing within historically low income communities. To tackle the potential concerns that stakeholders and city council members in New York may have in a constantly changing economy, I would recommend modeling the work done in Portland, OR.

The people of New York’s health should be a major concern to City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio, especially with the current restructuring of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Neighborhoods such as East Harlem, Flatbush, the Lower East Side, Bushwick and the South Bronx and many more, would benefit if Intro 385-B is passed and signed into law, this would be a proactive action that would begin to bridge the gap of health disparities in the city.


4 Responses to “Breathing Easy: A Strategic Plan to Reduce Childhood Asthma Rates in New York City”

  1. lukeglaudeblog Says:

    Having lived in Bushwick and the LES I had to comment on this post. I find affordable housing in NYC to be very complex and confusing. There have been recent steps to combat air quality in affordable housing in NYC and the federal ban on smoking in public housing is a great step forward. The federal no-smoking ban had been pushed by NYC for may years and only recently got national approval from HUD I fully support all of these measures but have some concerns regarding how to enforce these laws. I also fear that the new head of HUD will try to roll back these measures.

    IN terms of NYC, I completely support these measures that are proposed. Is there any new information about where these bills currently are. Looking at the New York City Council it seems that the bill has not gone anywhere since initially appearing in 2014. I’m just wondering what exactly is the holdup. Are there stakeholders that are against the bill? Like I said before, having lived in different areas of NYC I found it hard to even know who my landlord was and more difficult to get them to act on any problem that I had. Affordable housing is increasing moving to the outskirts of the city, hence the shift from the LES (Stuy-Town) to northern Bronx. With these new laws will it be even harder to have landlords be responsive to the residents in affordable housing. Overall, thanks for spreading knowledge on this topic and I look forward to future developments.

  2. iambeckyroar Says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    I grew up in NYC, and yes — the issues surrounding housing and health disparities are complex and entrenched. I think it’s important to note the intersection of race with this issue. Often, many of the city’s housing policies are “colorblind” on paper but have a deeply racialized impact. Most of the low income neighborhoods with high asthma rates are also predominantly communities of color.

    Here is an article highlighting the institutionalized racism that housing reforms have to address:

    Considerations of race and socioeconomic status complement a health disparities assessment, all of which impact an individual’s wellbeing in NYC.

    I agree with lukeglaudeblog, some of the realities of the housing situation may complicated implementation (i.e.: People may ask themselves, wait where is my landlord? Who is my landlord? What are my rights? And hey, this is New York, everyone breaks the rules a bit). It doesn’t help that De Blasio’s housing reforms have garnered serious criticism.

  3. LindaChyr Says:

    Thank you for sharing this public health issue.

    Dwelling disparities and the consequences of poor housing leading to poor health are well-documented. I agree with the above comments on the difficulty of implementing public housing reform particularly in these neighborhoods where they are deeply rooted socioeconomic and racial tensions. Plans to transform these public housing systems often lead to the uprooting of thousands of low-income residents. I lived on the South Side of Chicago for eight years and witnessed the consequences of gentrification in many communities. From a public health lens, I do recognize the dire need to address the health consequences of living in these residential conditions and I believe the measures you proposed are important first steps.

    I am curious about the consequences of Portland’s legislation on this issue. Have they done any evaluation on measures of respiratory health after the construction and uptake of high quality pollutant free homes? If given the success of Portland’s legislations, I do think modeling the work done in Portland for NYC would make sense. However, these are two different cities with very diverse neighborhoods and I wonder how generalizable these legislations are.

  4. Sehyo Yune Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. Having seen patients with asthma everyday as a physician, I know how important it is to have healthy living condition, especially for children and elderly. I strongly agree that a law to provide healthy housing for lower income families is necessary, but careful consideration of potential unintended impact is critical.

    Allergic reactions vary widely from individual to individual, and although there are several allergens commonly provoke allergic reactions, it is hard to determine indoor allergen hazards to be eliminated by landlords. Allergens do not cause harm for most of people, so requiring landlords to remove all possible cause of allergens is not only costly but also ineffective if not tailored to the tenants’ health status. There is also a risk of avoiding of or surcharging tenants with certain health conditions by landlords. Meticulous legislative planning is needed to keep housing in NYC’s low-income neighborhood affordable and healthy.

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