-By John Lynds
Councilor-at-Large Felix Arroyo told a story at an East Boston community meeting how one day at City Hall he was experiencing the symptoms of asthma. A lifelong asthmatic, Arroyo was experiencing the usual symptoms asthmatics fear inside his council office.
“I wasn’t doing well and was wheezing and had tightness in my chest,” said Arroyo. “Anyone who has asthma knows how these symptoms can ruin your day.”
Soon, Arroyo was joined by fellow colleague Councilor Sal LaMattina.
“He took one look at me and knew what I was going through,” said Arroyo. “I asked him how he knew and he told me ‘Felix, I’ve had asthma my whole life’.”
Since that encounter in Arroyo’s office over a year ago the two have joined forces to form the City Council’s first Committee on Asthma.
This week, in line with National Asthma Awareness Month, Arroyo who chairs the committee and LaMattina who is vice chair introduced a series of hearing orders at the last Council meeting aimed at battling alarming rates of asthma in the city.
“Being a life-long asthmatic, asthma is personal to me,” said Arroyo. “As a child, I spent so many nights at the emergency room at Faulkner Hospital that I knew the staff by first name. However, my story is not particular to me. It is a story that is all too common in our City.”
According to the City of Boston Public Health Commission’s Health of Boston 2010 Report, 10 percent of adults and 11 percent of high school students have asthma. Children under the age of 5 are four times more likely to be hospitalized because of asthma. Children’s Hospital Boston reported asthma as the leading rate of hospitalizations.
The hearing orders were crafted by the Asthma Task Force that Arroyo and LaMattina created to identify key asthma issues the two plan to address in 2011. As a result of these meetings, the hearing orders concentrate on usage of green cleaning supplies in all municipal buildings, integrated pest management, smoke-free public housing, and reducing truck emissions on construction sites.
“I look forward to continuing our work with Councilor Arroyo on the Committee and the Asthma Task Force,” said LaMattina. “We are using the research gathered from 2010 to recommend a plan of action so young Bostonians will not have to suffer the health troubles associated with this condition.”
The rate of asthma in Eastie, North Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, the South End, and West Roxbury exceed the citywide adult average, demonstrating that asthma is an epidemic throughout the city of Boston regardless of neighborhood.
“Residents throughout the city have either been directly impacted by this chronic disease or know a loved one, friend, colleague, or neighbor who suffers from asthma,” said Arroyo. “I am eager to advance the work I have begun with Councilor LaMattina and the Asthma Task Force on policies regarding the health hazards asthma creates for all Boston residents.”
Participants of the Asthma Task Force said they are encouraged by the Special Committee’s work.
“I cannot begin to tell you how important it is that City Councilors Arroyo and LaMattina developed a Special Committee on Asthma and introduced these hearing orders,” said Parent Asthma Leader with the Strengthening Voices Program Mary White. “Being the mother of three asthmatic children, I have learned the importance of a healthy environment at home and school.”