The Many Challenges of Managing Asthma in DC

The untimely death of Tim Clark at age 26 from complications following an asthma attack is a reminder of just how serious asthma can be and should serve as a wake-up call.  Mr. Clark was a former staffer for Councilmember McDuffie, served on the Edgewood Civic Association and as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and had recently joined Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration. He clearly had a bright and promising future.

While the exact circumstances of Mr. Clark’s death have not been publicized, we do know that many young Washingtonians have a difficult time keeping asthma under control. Nearly one in five children under age 18 in Washington, DC has asthma. Not all are equally affected: According to researchers at IMPACT-DC, led by Dr. Stephen Teach, emergency department visit rates among children in southeast DC are more than 10 times greater than in northwest DC.

Asthma is a chronic but manageable condition.  Our research shows that low-income families in DC face tremendous challenges in preventing asthma attacks: they must make frequent visits to doctors and adhere to challenging medication regimens; they are exposed to indoor allergens and irritants due to poor air quality in homes and schools; and they need to ensure that everyone who cares for their children knows about their health needs and how to manage them.

District policymakers can do more to help families manage asthma by advocating for access to high quality health services; clean air in DC homes and schools; and improved coordination among care providers, as well as strictly enforcing paid sick leave laws which help parents support their children with asthma.

DC Appleseed and our partners at Children’s National hope that the recent loss of Mr. Clark will spur action to prevent further tragedy.

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