Salem’s City Council recognized the growing problem of asthma which affects about 2,000 children and adults in the city, by proclaiming May 2014 as Asthma Awareness Month. Council member Lisa Garst presented the official proclamation to Diana Christopulos of Salem, who is the current president of the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition.
“When we consider the absenteeism for schools and work places plus the associated financial burdens of child care, lost wages and health care costs,” noted Garst, “we have to appreciate the necessity of making asthma awareness a priority.” She pointed out that, on average, it costs $6,304 for an asthma-related hospitalization for a child 0 to 4 years old and that many of the patients are in
underserved populations. Because of time constraints, education or access, the parents often believe their only option is to take that child to the emergency room.
Sally Southard, a pediatric nurse who is past president of the Salem School Board and current treasurer of the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition, reported that, “Every summer our coalition helps host an asthma camp for local children (Roanoke Camp Catch UR Breath), enabling children with asthma to have fun, receive support from each other, and learn how to manage their asthma. They learn how to handle an asthma episode, how their medications work, and also what factors trigger their asthma symptoms.”
In addition to serving on Salem City Council, Garst chairs the region-wide Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley. “I was struck,” she observed, “by how many of our organization’s goals align with your goals.”
Garst explained that the Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley has four stated goals and a series of strategies tied to the goals:
- Economic Development is a major goal, and one strategy is cultivating and promoting outdoor activities. Good air quality becomes a strong selling point in a competitive outdoor market.
- A second goal is Workforce Development. We hear that employers and employees actively seek communities with a high quality of life. Clean air is an essential component in that measure.
- Another goal is a Healthy Roanoke Valley, and promoting an active lifestyle is part of that goal. You can’t be active with too many ozone or particle pollution warning days.
- And lastly, but of equal importance, the preservation and enhancement of our Natural Resources. We have strategies and measures for improving air quality and water quality because we want this area to be a place of unique beauty and opportunity for our children and their children.
She closed her comments by thanking the coalition on behalf of the City of Salem and the Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley “for your work to promote a healthier Roanoke Valley and to increase our awareness of the value and necessity of clean air for everyone.”