The American Lung Association-Improving Life, One Breath at a Time
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Most of us take breathing for granted but for 35-million Americans living with chronic lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis, it’s just not that easy. Unfortunately, lung disease has surpassed heart disease and cancer and is now the number three killer in America. Thankfully, The American Lung Association (ALA), originally founded in 1916 to fight tuberculosis, is now the lead agency promoting lung health and the prevention of lung disease nationally.
With over 40,000 members in central Florida and nearly 1,000 volunteers all working for the same cause, the ALA team has become extremely powerful. Eric Gray, Executive Director for central Florida explains the organization has been instrumental in "The workplace smoking ban, the increase in tobacco education funding from one to fifty-eight million dollars, and a potential increase in the Florida cigarette tax by $1 per pack." He explains in many cases the ALA is the driving force behind many public initiatives that help promote lung health.
Smoking cessation is a high priority for the ALA which offers the Freedom From Smoking® group for adults. Equally important is the Not On Tobacco anti-tobacco program specifically designed for high school students which is currently utilized at high schools including Merritt Island High. The ALA is also partnering with the tobacco coalition, Prevent Brevard, providing speakers for PTA meetings and working to expand the program to additional schools.
The power of volunteers is the most important community service the ALA provides. One of the many outlets for these volunteers is the Open Airways for Schools program. Asthma is the leading cause of classroom absenteeism in Florida and for 16 years the ALA has been putting teachers in 3rd -5th grade classrooms to help asthma students. "Schools that have implemented this free program into their curriculum never leave and always want us to come back," says Eric. "It helps students learn how to manage asthma for the rest of their lives and makes a big difference in their overall educational experience." Eric affirms the goal for ALA educational programs is stated simply, "Every school, every hospital."
Other programs include: Better Breathers Club which provides an opportunity for lung disease patients and families to learn about their condition; Asthma 101 which focuses on school faculty as a critical link to maintain a network of support for asthmatic students; and Asthma Camp that enriches the lives of children who have chronic or life threatening illnesses by creating camping experiences that are exciting, empowering, physically safe, and medically sound.
ALA upholds that indoor air quality is crucial for lung health. Significant triggers include chemicals, cleaning solutions, pet dander, cigarette smoke, perfumes, and cockroaches. For those with severe allergies or asthma, keeping a clean house, changing air filters at least every month, as well as using organic or natural based products reduces the likelihood of an attack. Air filtration systems that scrub air through charcoal filtration or other natural process are also beneficial. Other suggestions include tightly seal all ductwork and clean out drier vents with a leaf blower.
Brevard will host the first annual Space Coast Asthma Walk on Saturday, May 16 at the Space Coast Stadium. The public is asked to get involved and help raise community awareness by volunteering as a member of a walk team. Call 407-425-5864 ext. 114 or email [email protected] to participate.
ALA’s greatest need is for volunteer leaders in Brevard. "Because of the scope and breadth of what we’re doing, we always need people that can step up in a leadership capacity to reach school principals, hospital administrators, and local business owners," states Eric. "One of the best parts of working with the oldest volunteer organization in the country is it’s an organization that’s trying to end the leading cause of death globally. As with many other chronic diseases, decisions made today affect the quality of life when you are older. Lung health is no different."
For more information about the American Lung Association, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lungfla.org.