Dr. Wenzel’s remarks before City Council on May 13, 2014, Asthma Institute Day:
Certainly, asthma is a very common disease; ten to fifteen percent of our population here in Pittsburgh suffers with asthma. And in fact, just a week ago or so, Pittsburgh was recognized as the 15th worst city in America to have asthma because of various issues with air quality, with smoking laws (which Pennsylvania has mandated across the region etc.), that in fact we suffer a great deal from the burden of Asthma here in Pittsburgh. Well, a week ago was actually World Asthma Day, so we’re very honored that a week later we can proclaim in Pittsburgh the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute Day, and be recognized for our work to try in improve the lives of many, many, young people with asthma.
Asthma is in fact a disease of young people, as President [Bruce] Kraus already mentioned. Basically, it starts in infancy in many, many patients, and can impact patients for the duration of their life. It also significantly impacts African Americans, probably proportionally much more than the Caucasian population. And certainly, the African American population suffers very disproportionally from the standpoint of asthma morbidity and mortality, with mortality rates from asthma about five to seven times higher in the African American community as compared to the Caucasian community.
The University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute is dedicated to trying to improve some of those disparities. Our efforts involve approaches at the clinical level, reaching out to various family practice groups, under-served communities, and trying to provide care at the clinical level. But also from a research perspective, we feel that there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement–the understanding of asthma, what makes asthma so severe, what makes asthma so severe and difficult to treat in the African American community, and how we can improve the lives of all our citizens with asthma in the Pittsburgh metro region.