Asthma-friendly school

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
May 27, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Every year, 14 million school days are missed by kids with asthma. But at a school in the Bronx, they're taking steps to keep that number as low as possible.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Asthma is an epidemic in some areas of New York City, especially in poor areas and those plagued by pollution. But now the schools are getting involved, with the help of a city-sponsored program. We went to one school in Hunt's Point to see how they handle the illness.

We took a trip to PS48X, the X is for the Bronx. What makes them one of the best schools in the city is their award in the asthma-free school contest.

"We have a very high rate of asthma in Hunt's Point," principal Roxanne Cardona said. "Nineteen percent of our school population has asthma."

All the pollution from trucks turning off the Bruckner Expressway into Hunt's Point's commercial center is one factor, as are the smells from the sewage treatment plant in the neighborhood. So Cardona and health teacher Marie Yezzo entered the competition to make 48X one of the best asthma-friendly schools.

Kids learn to wipe up dusty tables with soapy water and lemon, custodians use only green products to clean and buses are prohibited from idling motors outside the school. The staff teaches asthmatic kids about the illness.

"They didn't know their own bodies and how to control the triggers that cause asthma attacks," Yezzo said.

Even building construction starts after 4 p.m. to reduce dust during the school day. And it has all paid off.

PS 48X has the distinction of being one of only 19 schools in the city to win gold in the asthma-friendly school contest.

In addition, Yezzo helped some of her students write a play about asthma. Tatiana Glover was an author.

The result of it all? Students are having fewer asthma attacks.

"A lot of children were staying home because of their asthma attacks," Cardona said. "And now that the school is more asthma-friendly, they're coming to school."

That may help reduce some of the 14 million school days missed by kids with asthma. Yezzo estimates that thought 19 percent of kids are documented to have asthma at PS 48, another 6 percent have the illness but remain undiagnosed.

WABC is a proud sponsor of the Asthma Walk, which is this Saturday at 10 a.m. in Battery Park. For more information on how to take part, click here.