Fiscal Year 2012 Successes

We reached many goals from July 2011 to June 2012 with help from our partners and the community. We are proud of our accomplishments and thank everyone for your continued support. Feel free to download this document as a printable PDF.

1. Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project concludes after many successes

In March, we ended the two-year Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project, a collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health that was part of the CDC-funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work project. We worked with community partners, property managers, health care providers and more to lower smoking rates, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and address health disparities by reaching vulnerable populations, who smoke at higher rates than our citywide average of about 20%, including African-Americans, veterans, LGBTQ people and others. By the end of the project, we reached the majority of our 23 project goals. Some of our most notable successes are:
  • increasing Chicago-area calls to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline by nearly 70 percent over the course of the project.
  • converting more than 1,630 units of multi-unit housing to be 100% smoke-free, effectively reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and helping people quit smoking.
  • working with nine college campuses to adopt smoke-free or tobacco-free policies, including Roosevelt University, Robert Morris University and the seven campuses of City Colleges of Chicago. These policies impact more than 128,000 students and 7,000 staff.

2. Groundbreaking research advances treatments, cures

Through partnerships, we continue to fund groundbreaking research at major institutions. We are currently funding seven researchers who are studying asthma, lung cancer and COPD at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Rush University Medical Center and others.

In October, we awarded Jordi Tauler, PhD, a visiting research assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, $19,000 for his study of lung cancer genes. Dr. Tauler is identifying mutations that drive cancer development and investigating the genes that these mutations affect. By studying cells found in lung tumors, he hopes to learn more about how cells mutate to form non-small cell lung cancer tumors. Funding for this grant was provided by Chicago Lung Run.

We are excited to contribute to innovative researchers and look forward to advancing lung disease treatments and care.

3. Asthma-Friendly Childcare educates and enacts safer policies, practices

Respiratory Health Association was awarded a first-time grant from the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation to fund our Asthma-Friendly Childcare Project. We delivered intensive training to representatives from several childcare sites in the best ways to prevent and respond to asthma episodes and emergencies. Our educators also taught childcare sites about asthma-friendly policies, such as mandating asthma action plans are on file for each child, and the importance of using safer cleaning procedures, such as low-odor cleansers. The representatives we train then serve as leaders at their sites, ensuring asthma-friendly practices are sustainable.

We have trained several childcare providers in Asthma Management and provided training in asthma-friendly practices. As a result, Asthma-Friendly Childcare is on track to make a positive impact on a number of local childcare and Head Start agencies.

4. Asthma education in Lake County addresses high asthma rates

Respiratory Health Association continues to focus on education programs in areas with high asthma rates. We were recently awarded a first-time grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County to provide asthma education and resources to the community.

Children in parts of Lake County have asthma rates higher than the national average, and they have higher rates of asthma hospitalizations. Through our Asthma Management and Fight Asthma Now© classes, our staff will provide education and resources to students with asthma, their parents, teachers and other caregivers. We will also have a dedicated asthma programs coordinator stationed in Lake County to improve asthma outcomes in the area.

5. Cigarette tax saves lives

In June, Gov. Quinn signed into law the first statewide tobacco tax increase in 10 years. Because young people are very sensitive to tobacco prices, this tax will prevent more than 77,000 youth from ever starting to smoke. The increase will also encourage nearly 50,000 current smokers to quit. In all, the law:
  • raised the state tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.
  • closed a tax loophole so commercially operated roll-your-own cigarettes are taxed at the same rate as pre-packaged cigarettes. 
  • doubled the tax on other tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, cigars and smokeless tobacco.

In November, the Cook County Board passed its own $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase, effective March 1, 2013, for all cigarettes sold in Cook County. This measure will keep an estimated 18,000 young people from becoming smokers.

6. Coal plants close, improve air quality in region

Our greatest advocacy success this year was the closure of the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants on Chicago's Southwest side. These plants were responsible for spewing 5 million metric tons of air pollution each year, which contributed to an estimated 720 asthma attacks, 66 heart attacks and 42 premature deaths each year. For more than a decade, Respiratory Health Association staff worked to clean up or shut down the Fisk and Crawford plants.

In February, after increased pressure from community groups to adopt a Clean Power Ordinance, Mayor Emanuel reached a deal with the plants' owner, Midwest Generation, to shut down the facilities.

As we celebrate the victory, we know our work is not done. Many other coal-fired power plants still operate in our region. We will continue to defend the federal Clean Air Act and ensure power plants clean up or shut down so the air is clean enough for everyone to breathe.

7. COPD successes earn association national recognition

In November, more than 300 people living with COPD and their caregivers joined us for our 9th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference. Attendees learned about the importance of managing COPD exacerbations, the benefits of exercise and pulmonary rehab, and the significance of lung health advocacy. Conference speakers discussed oxygen therapy, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, exercising and more. Many of the conference attendees also participate in our annual Cruising with COPD in June, a social event on Lake Michigan that encourages people with COPD to get out and enjoy a day with others who share similar experiences.

Based on our successful leadership in COPD work, the U.S. COPD Coalition named our President and Chief Executive Officer Joel Africk to its board of directors. The coalition is the primary liaison with the U.S. Congressional COPD Caucus and promotes the interests of individuals affected by COPD, their family members, physicians and scientists.

8. Healthy Lungs Initiative reaches thousands in Cook County

The Healthy Lungs Initiative is a multi-year program of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, in collaboration with Respiratory Health Association, to place trained lung health educators in hospitals and community health sites across the county to deliver asthma management education, COPD education, and tobacco cessation resources. This year alone, our team of educators had more than:
  • 4,600 asthma or COPD self-management encounters with patients
  • 20,000 tobacco cessation encounters 
  • 2,100 participants in group tobacco cessation classes

The impact of our interventions reaches beyond the individual clients. For example, adopting a smoke-free home environment can have a positive health impact on children and other family members whose exposure to secondhand smoke may be reduced through our efforts.

9. Wining & dining events raise record support for our work

In February, we were one of the charity beneficiaries of the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity. The black-tie event includes hors d'oeuvres, a preview of the auto show, live entertainment and a dessert reception. In 2012, the event raised nearly $100,000 to support our work.

In November, we benefited from CHILL: An International Wine and Culinary Event. Guests enjoyed gourmet food, wine and spirits in LuxeHome's kitchen and bath boutiques at Chicago's Merchandise Mart. We hosted a record 1,100 guests and raised $75,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships and a silent auction, featuring memorabilia signed by Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng. Save the date for our next CHILL: Thursday, November 14, 2013.

10. Adventurers support loved ones through our events

In February, the 15th annual Hustle Up the Hancock drew more than 4,000 climbers for the 52-floor or 94-floor climb. In addition to taking on the athletic challenge of climbing John Hancock Center, many participants climb in honor or memory of a loved one, and the event raised more than $1.1 million to support our work. Lung Health Champion registration for Hustle 2014 will open on October 15, 2013.

Based on popular demand, we held two Skyline Plunge! Chicago events in 2012. In May and September, more than 150 participants rappelled 27 stories down theWit Hotel. Many rappellers came in teams with matching T-shirts and crowds of supporters cheering them on from the street. In all, the two events raised nearly $200,000 to support our lung disease research and programs. The next Plunge! is Sunday, September 8, 2013!

To help us reach our goals for next year, please consider donating to Respiratory Health Association here.

For more ways to get involved, visit our Special Events page.