Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Asthma in City Is like the Third World

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Asthma in City Is like the Third World

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

African-Americans in Jacksonville may be fighting to breathe more than their counterparts in the U.S.

That's no surprise. Otherwise, there might be more urgency to stop the spread of asthma.

But the problem is worsening.

The Times-Union recently reported that Brian Seymour, director of Edward Waters College's Center for the Prevention of Health Disparities, completed a study that found that half of its 200 black participants, who live in the New Town and College Gardens neighborhoods around the school, had elevated levels of antibodies for asthma or allergic diseases.

Another 14 percent had extremely elevated levels.

Seymour told the Times-Union that those levels resemble those in Third World countries.

But signs pointing to that disparity have been around for some time.

In 2002, Jimmie Johnson, then a member of the Duval County School Board, discovered in his visits to homes of students in Northwest Jacksonville that asthma was the reason behind much of their spotty attendance.

Years later, his successor, Betty Burney, discovered the same thing.

"When we were walking the neighborhoods, we noticed that asthma was affecting a lot of students," Burney told me. "Many of them were missing a lot of school because of it."

Then the Duval County Health Department did a study in 2008 to document disparities between black and white asthma sufferers. Other studies followed, as have various outreach efforts.

Yet what Seymour's findings reveal, again, is that asthma isn't just a matter of people not being aware of why they are ill or people smoking or people neglecting to take their medications. It is also a matter of people in poor, mostly-black neighborhoods living in aging housing with lead and other toxins, as well as near contaminated areas.

In other words, people are choking on poverty. …

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