This month’s issue on asthma is a continuation of the monthly series started last year, focusing on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region. The series is a partnership among the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Michael Yonas, DrPH, assistant professor of family medicine at Pitt, sat down with Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, to talk about this month’s topic.

MY: Ms. Bush, I know that you are well aware of the disparities in health that we face here in Allegheny County. We’ve learned a lot working together on these segments over the past year. Was there anything that surprised you about the asthma information in this month’s segment?

EB: I always learn something new when reading our “Take Charge of Your Health” pages. I know that there are racial disparities with regard to who has asthma. I did not realize that the disparity is so high, especially among African American women in Allegheny County. I also did not know triggers for asthma can be SO different for each person. I learned a lot of new information about the relationship between stress and asthma and the research being done to explore how stress can make asthma worse. Although asthma is a chronic disease, it is one we can control. I hope people take the time to talk with their health care providers about the ways they can understand their own asthma and what triggers it. This is just one more good reason to get and keep people well-informed about how to take care of themselves.

MY: You’re right, Esther. We know that stress and strong emotions may lead to an asthma attack directly, or through changes in breathing patterns. The new research projects highlighted in clinical settings and in schools are also exciting. I was interested to learn that the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School has already been, and continues to be, a partner in Dr. Anna Marsland’s research.

EB: Yes, we have worked with Dr. Marsland’s team and I am very pleased that she has continued to involve local schools like Propel and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School in her research. I look forward to learning more about her intervention that teaches children coping skills to better manage their asthma. Your research, Michael, is also very important—bringing together such diverse groups of people to help identify stressors that children with asthma experience in their homes and communities. And, who would have thought that something as simple as vitamin D could help prevent the worsening of asthma symptoms? This exciting research by Dr. Sally Wenzel is happening right here in Pittsburgh as well. There are many opportunities for people to learn more about asthma including referring to the resources provided on this month’s page. Every month I learn more about health, wellness and new research taking place right here in Pittsburgh; I know you’re going to bring up another key topic for us next month. Meanwhile, let’s wish all of our readers a New Year in which we all take steps to improve and safeguard our health so we will be in great shape to enjoy all the blessings and joys that await us!

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