05 Jan

Dateline NBC: “Breathless” Special Report on Asthma and Poverty

LSA families and Ray Lopez, Director of Environmental Health Services, talk to Lester Holt about asthma and LSA’s efforts to fight the mold, pests, and indoor toxins that trigger asthma.

“LSA has been focused on the asthma issue in poor neighborhoods for over a decade,” explained Ray Lopez. “We’ve been working hands-on with families at home to eliminate mold, pests and toxins so they can breathe again.””

Watch the segment of “Breathless” featuring LSA on Dateline NBC 

LSA Family Health Service on Dateline’s ‘Breathless,’ Exposing the Link Between Poverty and Asthma.

EAST HARLEM (January 5th, 2014) —  Dateline NBC has completed a special report, “Breathless” that investigates the link between poverty and asthma and following two families whose children suffer from asthma because of mold, leaks and deteriorating walls that have been neglected by NYCHA, New York City’s  public housing authority. Ray Lopez, the Director of Environmental Health and Family Asthma at LSA Family Health Service (the “Little Sisters”), a nonprofit in East Harlem, is featured playing a key role in identifying the causes and triggers of asthma in the families’ apartmenst, particularly mold. The program will air on Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at 7 pm nationwide (For a sneak preview go to bit.ly/NBClsa).

Children ages 5-18 living in the poorest neighborhoods, like East Harlem, the South Bronx and the Lower East Side, suffer from asthma rates exceeding 18%—twice the NYC and US averages. Participants in LSA’s program show a 64% reduction in emergency room visits and 45% reduction in missed school days.

“LSA has been focused on the asthma issue in poor neighborhoods for over a decade,” explained Ray Lopez. We’ve been working hands-on with families at home to eliminate mold, pests and toxins so they can breathe again.” He added, “Having our program featured on Dateline validates our work and gives this largely unrecognized public health crisis the attention it deserves. I am hopeful that because of Dateline’s Breathless we will be able to have an even greater impact on the lives of those suffering with asthma.”

Dateline’s Lester Holt follows Javier Sepulveda, a client in LSA’s program, who learns, thanks to home visits made by Ray Lopez and his team of community health workers, that his daughter’s asthma is caused by roach infestations and rampant mold in his bathroom.

Ray Lopez and his Environmental Health team have been working with the poorest families in disadvantaged neighborhoods for over a decade, making assessments and showing families how they can remediate unhealthful conditions. LSA’s skilled nurses also make home visits to treat and manage the asthma symptoms— together literally changing the lives of children whose health has been seriously undermined by asthma.

Javier Sepulveda ultimately chooses to challenge NYCHA in court, holding them responsible for making repairs and removing mold, as well as the sources of moisture that cause it on behalf of other families in public housing. But LSA is always on hand to help him and other families mitigate triggers when landlords won’t

Lopez, who was named Urban Health Champion last may by the New York Academy of Medicine also played a key role in Javier’s suit against NYCHA as a member of the community group Manhattan Together. The suit charged the agency with violating the rights of asthma suffers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. NYCHA settled the suit in December 2012, agreeing to rewrite their mold policy and set forth a system of expediting repairs that impact indoor air, including mold and leaks.

Mr. Lopez has brought his expertise in mitigating asthma triggers (in both private and public housing) to a HUD-funded, 3-year research project, CAHR, with the New York Academy of Medicine, to study the impact improved indoor air quality has on asthma and health. Preliminary findings support that mold and indoor contaminants like pests and crumbling walls exacerbate asthma.