CHICAGO- Today Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn promoted the check-off box on the Illinois income tax form to support the “Asthma and Lung Research Fund,” and outlined new bills that boost asthma education, increase access to treatment, and control factors that contribute to asthma attacks.
“The asthma rate has soared in Illinois, asthma-related deaths have doubled, and this epidemic is the number one cause of school absences among children,” Quinn said.
Nearly 800,000 Illinois residents suffer from asthma, and the death rate from asthma in Chicago is the highest in the nation. Citing from the just-released “Improving Community Health Survey” by the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Quinn said that Chicago is most heavily impacted by pediatric asthma.
The report details alarming racial disparities and illustrates that asthma is the most common chronic condition in children particularly for disadvantaged Puerto Ricans and African Americans. According to the findings, 34 percent of Puerto Rican children in Chicago have asthma and 25 percent of Chicago’s African American children also suffer.
“Asthma is a national health care crisis that is especially brutal to Illinois children,” said Quinn. “It will take concerted community efforts such as the new tax check-off for asthma research to stem the rapid growth of asthma in Illinois. The tax check-off mechanism gives taxpayers a direct way to help.”
Senate Bill 1401 – sponsored by Sen. Edward Maloney (D-Chicago) and former Rep. Mary Kay O’Brien (D-Coal City) and approved unanimously by the State Senate last spring – established a check-off on Illinois income tax forms that enable taxpayers to voluntarily contribute to the new Asthma and Lung Research Fund to aid the Asthma Clinical Research Center administered by the American Lung Association.
Quinn, along with the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago, also outlined several bills to combat the asthma epidemic. One bill, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D – Woodstock), will expand private coverage for medical equipment that is necessary to calm and prevent asthma attacks. The legislation will require private insurers to allow for more than one spacer and one peak flow meter. Both devices are as common to asthma sufferers as inhalers.
An environmental bill sponsored by Reps. Michael Smith (D – Canton) and Sandra Pihos (R – Glen Ellyn) will also be introduced that sets prohibitions regarding when and how long a school bus can idle. As a matter of public health, limiting idling reduces diesel emissions from vehicles that contribute to asthma attacks, respiratory problems, and missed days of school and work.
Quinn will be joined by American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago CEO Joel Africk; Dr. Victoria Persky, Professor of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Rep. Deborah Graham (D – Oak Park); Rep. Kenneth Dunkin (D – Chicago); Dr. Karen Malamut of Mobile CARE Foundation; and various members of Quinn’s Asthma Coalition, made up of community health leaders, not-for-profit and government groups, and medical experts. Also in attendance were legislative sponsors and representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Aid and Illinois Department of Public Health.