The first bill would require all public schools to have nebulizers available for students, and for nurses to be trained to operate them appropriately. Another bill would require the Department of Health to create annual reports on the prevalence of asthma and asthma-related hospitalizations based on demographic breakdowns like age, race and geography.
“We must ensure that our children have the resources they need to succeed in school,” said Constantinides, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “Equipping public schools with appropriate medical devices will give kids in distress from asthma the critical treatment that they need.
“Data and knowledge about the prevalence of asthma will help families be aware of asthma risk so children can get screened early if necessary,” he added.
According to the councilman, more than 80,000 children in New York City have asthma, and 7,000 children are hospitalized from it every year. Asthma-related illnesses are one of the leading causes of students missing school.
Some students with severe asthma miss as many as 30 days, Constantinides said. If nebulizers are available in schools, the councilman argued, children won’t have to go home or to a hospital for treatment.
The state legislature had previously passed a similar bill that mandated nebulizers be available at public schools, but the initiative was unfunded and never went into effect.
“The simple act of breathing, which most of us take for granted, is a struggle for too many in our city, especially our children,” said Councilman Corey Johnson of Manhattan, who leads the Council’s Committee on Health. “This package of legislation will, among its many achievements, ensure that every child has the right to learn and grow in our schools without fear of untreated issues with asthma.”
Respiratory illnesses like asthma are linked to air quality and pollution. There are higher rates of hospitalization for respiratory diseases in communities located near pollution sources, such as power plants.
Power plants in western Queens, including Astoria which Constantinides represents, produce nearly half of the entire city’s power.
“Controlling asthma often comes down to preparation,” said Claudia Guglielmo, director of the Asthma Coalition of Queens. “Pushing schools to have nebulizers on hand elevates the ability to manage kids with asthma on site, alleviate stress and possibly minimizing trauma for the child, family and school.”