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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014


Allegheny General Hospital and the Breathe Project Present “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and the Environment”

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

World Asthma Month Summit May 16 Brings Attention to the Asthma-Environment Connection
PITTSBURGH (May 10, 2012) – Local and national asthma experts will convene in Pittsburgh May 16 in recognition of World Asthma Month for “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and the Environment,” a day-long event designed to raise awareness about the growing incidence of asthma in the Pittsburgh region, and the impact of environmental factors on this pressing public health concern.
Presented by Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and the Breathe Project, with the support of The Heinz Endowments and the Suburban Health Foundation, “The Air We Breathe” will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Priory Grand Hall on Pittsburgh’s Northside.
“It is important for the public to know that southwestern Pennsylvania has one of the highest asthma rates in the state,” said David Skoner, MD, Division Director of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS). “With this summit, we also want to raise awareness of how environmental factors such as air pollution contribute to high asthma rates, affecting the health of adults and children throughout the region.”
Asthma is a chronic, incurable disease characterized by repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma attacks may be mild, or may become severe, serious and life-threatening. Each year in the U.S., managing asthma consumes more than $18 billion in healthcare resources, including 1.75 million emergency room visits, 456,000 hospitalizations and 3,447 asthma-related deaths.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently named Pittsburgh the No. 4 Most Challenging Place to Live With Asthma, up from No. 11 in 2011, based on factors such as air pollution, ozone days and pollen counts. In one local school district, Northgate, close to 38 percent of students suffer from asthma.
The gathered experts on May 16 will outline asthma triggers and how air quality regionally, nationally and globally affects asthma rates. Some have led innovative research projects bringing great insight into the problem of asthma among urban youths.
Presenter Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, Chair, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, took 37 children from an urban area in Italy to a rural hotel for a week. After just a week, he found the children’s lung function increased and levels of allergy-linked white blood cells dropped.
Presenter Dr. George Thurston of New York University attached air monitors to the backpacks of South Bronx school children. He found that their symptoms worsened on days with higher vehicle traffic and that diesel exhaust posed a particular danger.
“We are proud to see so many renowned researchers joining us for this event,” said Deborah Gentile, MD, Director of Research, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, AGH. “Asthma rates in our region are getting worse, not better, and it is going to require a unique, large scale, collaborative effort involving all segments of our community to address this important public health issue.”
The day will conclude with a panel discussion, moderated by WQED-TV’s Chris Moore, featuring community leaders who are shaping the discussion on asthma and air pollution. They include Allegheny County Executive Richard Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane, Ed.D., and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters Don Hopey and David Templeton, whose series, “Mapping Mortality,” documented 14,656 excess heart and respiratory and lung cancer deaths in the 14 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania from 2000 through 2008, with evidence that many of those deaths can be linked to pollution exposure. Dr. Thurston and Dr. Piedimonte will also participate in the discussion.
In addition to Drs. Skoner and Gentile, session presenters will include:
  • Vadim Drobin, MD, MPH, Asthma Control Program Epidemiologist, Pennsylvania Department of Health, “The Asthma Burden in Western Pennsylvania.”
  • Jane Ellen Clougherty, MSc, ScD, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh, “Quantification of Air Pollution in Our Community.”
  • Fernando Holguin, MD, Medical Director, Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Michael Yonas, DrPh, MPh, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Pittsburgh, “Impact of Regional Air Pollution on Asthma in Our Community.”
  • David B. Peden, MD, MS, Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology and Toxicology, North Carolina Children’s Hospital, “National and International Impact of Air Pollution on Asthma.”


The summit is free and open to the public, and medical professionals may be eligible for continuing education credits. For more information, visit http://www.wpahs.org/asthma-summit or call 412.330.4432.
For more information, contact:
West Penn Allegheny Health System
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