News & Events

Reducing Childhood Asthma Hospitalization Rates in the Duwamish Valley

Duwamish River Community Coalition | May 25, 2023
3 minutes to read

University of Washington researchers and Duwamish Valley community advocates have received a five-year grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to help reduce childhood asthma hospitalization rates and improve quality of life for asthmatic children who live in the Seattle neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown.

Children who live in the Duwamish Valley have the highest rates of hospitalization due to asthma in Seattle, according to a 2013 community-led study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study also found that the life expectancy in Duwamish Valley neighborhoods is eight years shorter than the Seattle average, and that levels of air pollutants like diesel and particulate matter is much higher than the city average. Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks in both children and adults, and can infiltrate homes and classrooms where children spend most of their indoor time.

The NIEHS grant was awarded to UW epidemiologist, Dr. Anjum Hajat, and Duwamish River Community Coalition, Executive Director, Paulina Lopez, to fund community-based participatory research. A local community-based air quality monitoring network will be used to measure pollutants from cars and truck traffic. Additionally, low-cost air filters will be provided to families with children with asthma in South Park and Georgetown to help clean the air in their homes.

Improvements in air quality in the homes of participating families and changes in asthma symptoms in their children will be measured to determine the effectiveness of the air filter intervention. The project will also fund a local Community Advocacy Team which will help guide the project as well as the placement of air monitors and determine how best to use the study results to improve air quality and children’s health through policy changes and local actions.

“Epidemiologists have known for some time that air pollution can trigger asthma attacks in children,” says Dr. Hajat. “What is important about this study is that we are looking for effective, low-cost solutions to help those communities that are hit the hardest.”

Paulina Lopez, Director of the Duwamish River Community Coalition, says air pollution is one of the highest environmental concerns for Duwamish Valley families. “We are surrounded by highways and industry and the planes are always flying overhead,” Lopez points out. “If you live here, there is nothing you can do to escape it but with the right information and actions, we can change it.”

Drs. Edmund Seto, Elena Austin, and Catherine Karr will also be on the UW study team, as well as Lissette Palestro, MPH, from DRCC, and together they will work with the community. DRCC will hire a team of Healthy Home Assessors and Community Health Workers (“Promotores”) to help with this project, which will also be supported by the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Public Health Seattle & King County, SeaMar Community Health Clinic, Just Health Action, Dr. Troy Abel at Western Washington University, and Dr. Kirsten Senturia from Senturia and Rabkin Consulting.