Health Department Hosts Asthma Action Summit, Releases New Data on Efficacy of Asthma Counselor Program

Summit discussed strategies to reduce asthma health disparities
and improve care for all people living with asthma

Data Brief highlights effectiveness of the East Harlem Asthma Center
of Excellence’s Asthma Counselor Program in managing childhood asthma

June 19, 2017 – The Health Department’s Center for Health Equity (CHE) today hosted the Asthma Action Summit at the New York Academy of Medicine. The event brought together local and state stakeholders involved in asthma care to discuss the systemic barriers to asthma treatment in East and Central Harlem. The summit also highlighted the accomplishments that neighborhood-based asthma providers have had over the last decade, including the establishment of regional asthma coalitions, expediting home repairs in public housing and reducing the number of hospitalizations due to asthma. Concurrent with the summit, the Health Department released an Epi Data Brief detailing the effectiveness of the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence (EHACE) Asthma Counselor Program. Epi Data Brief (PDF).

“Too many children in New York City live in conditions that lead to poor health outcomes and chronic health issues,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Children in communities of color are at higher risk of asthma and East Harlem children have a more than twofold increased risk of being hospitalized for asthma. Improving access to and engagement with health care is important, and I am gratified that the Asthma Counselor Program has helped many children and families manage asthma. But we have more work to do to undo the legacy and current effects of structural racism seen in bad housing and lack of consistent access to care.”

According to the Epi Data Brief, children in East Harlem experience higher rates of asthma-related emergency visits and hospitalizations. In 2014, the asthma-related hospitalization rate in this neighborhood was 2.2 times higher among children birth to 17 years, compared to those in the rest of New York City (99 versus 44 per 10,000). The rate of asthma-related emergency department visits for children in East Harlem was 2.4 times higher than those in the rest of the city (620 versus 255 per 10,000).

The EHACE Asthma Counselor Program provides culturally and linguistically appropriate asthma counseling, including individual case management services, to more than 1,300 children and their families from East Harlem, Central Harlem, the South Bronx, and other neighborhoods.  In an effort to address the disparate asthma outcomes experienced by East Harlem families, the EHACE Asthma Counselor Program successfully:

  • Decreased asthma-related emergency department visits among graduates in the previous 12 months by 56 percent
  • Decreased the number of children hospitalized for asthma in the previous 12 months by 50 percent

In New York City, children of color are disproportionately affected by asthma. According to the Epi Data Brief, in 2015, Black children were five times more likely than White children to have been diagnosed with asthma, and Latino children were three times more likely. Disparities can be related to factors such as differences in neighborhood housing quality, exposure to pests in the home, the psychosocial environment and quality of health care. Many of these relate to historical disinvestment in neighborhoods of color throughout New York City, including East Harlem. In 2008, the City established EHACE as a commitment to providing quality care and health education to children in East Harlem with asthma. Since then, EHACE has served nearly 1,400 families.

This past January, the de Blasio administration announced a $1 billion commitment in City capital to replace deteriorating roofs on NYCHA buildings over the next 10 years – an investment that will fix over 700 roofs and benefit more than 120,000 NYCHA residents. In addition to funding the replacement of roofs and parapets (the protective wall along roofs), this allocation will help to substantially reduce mold, which can lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“Through the Center for Health Equity’s Neighborhood Health Action Centers, we are investing in the areas of the city that have been historically deprived of resources in order to confront long-standing inequities in health,” said Dr. Aletha Maybank, Deputy Commissioner and Director of the Center for Health Equity. “The Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Centers house the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence, which works alongside community partners, clinical providers, other City agencies and health department divisions to collectively address asthma treatment and management in East Harlem.”

“While asthma-related deaths among children are rare, they do happen and they are preventable. Asthma can be well-managed and that care begins at home and within the community,” said Dr. George L. Askew, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Family and Child Health. “This summit is a wonderful opportunity to bring community members and partners together to collaborate on strategies to reduce inequities and improve the health outcomes of families affected by asthma.”

“This summit is a chance to bring together families affected by childhood asthma and all the neighborhood partners and providers that have a stake in delivering asthma care to the children of East Harlem,” said Dr. Noel Manyindo, Assistant Commissioner of the Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Centers. “Through the facilitation of constructive discussions at the summit, strategies and recommendations generated from participating partners will be compiled into a report to help guide programming and policy at the local and state levels.”

“As the representative of the area with the highest asthma incidence in New York City, I am glad to see the City give this issue the attention it deserves by convening the Asthma Action Summit,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “For years, I have advocated for policies that help improve air quality in the Bronx and the rest of New York City. We also need to approach this issue from a public health perspective. The Action Summit served as an opportunity to discuss strategies to successfully improve treatment and reduce asthma health disparities in the City. I look forward draw on its work to continue advocating for effective policies in Congress.”

"Neighborhood-based asthma provider programs such as the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and their Asthma Counselor Program have changed the landscape of prevention and treatment in our district,” said Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, East Harlem/El Barrio, Central Harlem, and the Upper East Side. “With East Harlem having more than double the average frequency of asthma-related hospitalization and ER visits, having programs such as this with proven results and tangible outcomes is a must. I admire the strides we are making, yet there is more work to be done to ensure that communities of color get the support they need. I look forward to continued progress and future success at EHACE,"

The Asthma Counselor Program at EHACE was launched in 2008. The program serves children birth to 17 and works with families for one year. Families graduate from the program with skills and knowledge to properly manage asthma symptoms. EHACE is part of the Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center. For more information, search “EHACE” at or call 888-247-8811.

About the Center for Health Equity

Founded in 2014, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity amplifies the agency’s work to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of chronic disease and premature death. The division takes a number of approaches to invest in key neighborhoods, eliminate the social barriers to good health and advance health equity throughout New York City. For more information on the Center for Health Equity, visit Follow the Center for Health Equity on social media using #NYCHealthEquity.



MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez/Carolina Rodriguez: (347) 396-4177