Fiscal Year 2013 Successes

We reached many goals from July 2012 to June 2013 with help from our partners and the community. We are proud of our accomplishments and thank everyone for your continued support.

1. Asthma programs expand, educate thousands

During the 2012-13 academic year, we educated more than 1,000 students and 2,400 adult caregivers in Chicago and southern Cook County through our Fight Asthma Now® and Asthma Management programs. Our asthma programs provide vital education for children and adults affected by asthma-we help them identify and avoid asthma triggers, teach them the proper ways to use medications and explain how they can manage their asthma. Thanks to the Polk Bros. Foundation and the Aileen S. Andrew Foundation for their grant support.

In related news, we expanded our asthma programming efforts to Lake County this year, thanks in part to a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County. Some communities in Lake County experience higher asthma rates than the national average, and one study estimated that 16 percent of children in some areas have the disease. Since the program's inception in April, we have educated 33 children and 92 caregivers in Lake County! Our programs continue to expand, and we remain a leader in addressing asthma in our communities.

2. Legislative actions lead to easier breathing

During the last year, Respiratory Health Association worked with other community organizations to persuade the City of Chicago to adopt a "no-coal" rule in its municipal electricity purchasing agreement. This provision will help cut down on smog and air pollution that contributes to many lung and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

In August, we were among a group of organizations that successfully persuaded Gov. Pat Quinn to veto the construction of a new coal gasification plant in Chicago that would have contributed to Chicago's air pollution problems. The veto effectively ended the chances of New York-based Leucadia National Corporation's investment in the project and will keep the Chicago skies free from hundreds of tons of air pollution each year. This is particularly good news for people living with lung disease and for young people and the elderly, two groups most affected by air pollution.

3. COPD successes

More than 1,000 people living with COPD participated in Respiratory Health Association's COPD programs this year, and thousands more people benefited from our Inspiration newsletter and other COPD initiatives. Our 10th annual Cruising with COPD event drew more than 500 participants, and more than 300 people attended our Living Better Together with COPD conference in November. There, attendees learned the benefits of exercise and pulmonary rehabilitation, how to best manage COPD and the importance of lung health advocacy for people living with COPD.

4. College campuses go smoke-free

This year, we secured two more partners in our efforts to implement tobacco-free policies on college campuses in Illinois. On July 1, University of Illinois at Chicago will become tobacco-free and on November 1, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will become a smoke-free campus. Previously, Respiratory Health Association assisted Roosevelt University, Robert Morris University and the City Colleges of Chicago in becoming smoke-free campuses. In all, Respiratory Health Association has helped provide healthier learning environments for more than 200,000 students and staff at Illinois colleges and universities.

According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, 1,159 college and university campuses across the United States are 100% smoke-free or tobacco-free (tobacco-free campuses prohibit both smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco products). These policies lead to substantial reductions in the number of people who smoke. They also decrease the number of people who are exposed to environmental tobacco hazards and eliminate cigarette butts and other related litter on campus. Smoke-free higher education campuses promote a safe, clean and healthy learning environment for students, visitors and employees.

5. Tobacco prevention targets youth and vulnerable populations

In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, we are working to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and to prevent tobacco use among students. We want all Chicago public school students to have access to tobacco-free environments. This work is made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy CPS is an initiative of Healthy Chicago and led by the Office of Student Health and Wellness.

Outside of Chicago we worked this year with the DeKalb County Health Department to expand tobacco-free multi-unit housing and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke throughout DeKalb County. By January 1, 2014, all public housing in DeKalb County will be smoke-free, creating healthier living conditions for all.

6. Safe spaces for kids with asthma

This year, thanks to support from Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation, we helped early childcare sites make asthma-friendly environmental and systems changes such as using asthma-friendly cleaning products and assigning staff members to receive Air Pollution Action Day alerts. As a direct result, more childcare sites offer Asthma-Friendly Childcare, helping young children living with asthma.

Our Asthma-Friendly Childcare program will continue to create safe environments for children with asthma. In May, we were awarded an additional two-year grant from the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation to expand our program and increase the number of Asthma-Friendly Childcare sites in Chicago. During the next two years, we plan to train childcare providers, model best practices and provide ongoing support as they adopt and implement asthma-friendly improvements at their facilities.

7. Breaking new ground in research

In 2013, Respiratory Health Association continued to fund groundbreaking research at major institutions. Currently, we assist seven researchers who are studying asthma, lung cancer and COPD at The University of Chicago, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center and other institutions.

In November, we awarded Dr. Valerie Press of The University of Chicago a two-year, $80,000 research grant to improve patients' management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This project, which is2013funded in partnership with American Thoracic Society Foundation and others, is studying the effectiveness of a video-based strategy to teach hospitalized patients how to use their inhalers properly. This approach may improve patient management of their disease and reduce costs associated with hospitalization.

We are proud to contribute to innovative researchers like Dr. Press and look forward to advancing lung disease treatments and care.

We are also proud to have had, for the first time, two research abstracts in the areas of asthma and tobacco cessation accepted for the 2013 American Public Health Association National Conference.

8. Cook County tobacco tax increase to save lives

One of the most successful ways to decrease youth smoking rates is to increase the price of cigarettes. This year, Respiratory Health Association worked with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in her successful effort to increase the county tobacco tax by $1 per pack. Our staff met with elected officials, recruited supporters and testified at multiple hearings. This action is expected to keep 18,000 young people from becoming smokers.

The healthcare impact of smoking in Illinois is estimated at more than $5 billion per year, which is the equivalent of more than $8 per pack of cigarettes sold in the state. The new tax increase will not only discourage youth smoking; it also will help the County re-coup a portion of the County's costs of treating tobacco-related illness in Cook County.

9. Healthy Lungs Initiative extended

This was a banner year for our Healthy Lungs Initiative, a program we implement in partnership with Cook County Health and Hospital Systems.
This year alone, our team of educators has had more than:

  • 4,785 asthma/COPD one-on-one educational sessions.
  • 22,071 tobacco interviews.
  • More than 6,404 smoking cessation counseling sessions.
  • 250 interactions with smokers in Cook County.

In December 2012, Cook County Health and Hospital Systems extended the Healthy Lungs Initiative to December 2014, which means our lung health educators can continue to provide asthma and COPD education, smoking cessation and respiratory health support for the residents of Cook County.

10. Athletes and adventurers support loved ones

The 15th annual Hustle up the Hancock was an enormous success! The February event drew more than 4,000 "hustlers" and 300 teams, who climbed either 52 floors in the CBS2 Half Climb or the full 94 floors of Chicago's iconic John Hancock Center. Almost two thirds of participants climbed in honor or memory of a loved one touched by lung disease, and the event raised more than $1.1 million to support Respiratory Health Association's mission.

At this year's Skyline Plunge! Chicago, more than 150 participants rappelled 27 stories down theWit Hotel. In all, Skyline Plunge! Chicago raised nearly $200,000 this year to support lung disease research and programs.