The incidence of asthma in children in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood is about twice the national average, with almost a quarter of the youth population diagnosed with the respiratory disease, according to a report from WBEZ radio.
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Mount Sinai Hospital, which serves the community, has been trying to get to the bottom of the problem for years, but has been thwarted by a lack of funding and a lack of access to what they believe are the triggers for asthsma; environmental conditions in the homes of those afflicted.
The hospital's research-and-outreach sister organization, the Sinai Urban Health Institute, has been able to address issues such as cigarette smoke and pet dander, but their hands were tied when it came to dealing with the more basic issue of mice, rats and roaches in the walls of apartment buildings throughout the area.
They needed to get to the landlords, a step which is now possible thanks to a federal grant.
"A $1.3 million federal grant is expanding the pediatric asthma program over the next three years. The money is providing, among other things, a full-time advocate from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization," WBEZ reported.
It's a big job for the one 23-year-old woman assigned to it, but it's one that Loreen Targos is taking it on with great enthusiasm. She's expected to meet with tenants and landlords alike to help create a cleaner, healthier living situation.
As the WBEZ report indicates, it's not always an easy assignment, but if successful, the North Lawndale asthma statistics could soon be improving.