Youth survey: Air quality, asthma priorities


Air quality seems to be worsening in Delaware County, according to health officials.

Pollution and preventing asthma were identified as priorities in a recent “Youth Health Assessment” by the Delaware County Family Children First Council and the Delaware General Health District.

The American Lung Association’s “State of Air” report in 2015 gave Delaware County a “D” — which means Delaware County had five “unhealthy for sensitive populations” days in 2015 and one “unhealthy for all populations” day. The report tracks the number of days in a year with high ozone concentration. In 2013, Delaware County was given a “C,” meaning there have been more high ozone days since the 2013 report.

The air report states high ozone days can have an impact and cause adverse effects for people with allergies, hay fever, asthma or other respiratory problems.

These reports, coupled with a parent survey that found 24.14 percent of kindergarten to fifth-grade students, 36.44 percent of sixth- through eighth-grade students and 31.15 students suffer from allergies or hay fever, have led health officials like Delaware County’s Kelsey Kuhlman to conclude the air quality in Delaware is getting worse.

The “Youth Health Assessment” is a compilation of several different surveys completed in the county, including the health district’s “Photovoice” project in which students from local schools were given cameras and asked to document the good and the bad in Delaware County.

Kuhlman, a health educator at the Delaware General Health District and one of the people involved in administration of the assessment, said the problem of environmental health was reiterated again and again during the Photovoice project.

“I was also pleasantly surprised to see the number of times that youth discussed the issues related to environmental pollution, especially with polluting our waterways and graffiti, and how that impacts a community,” Kuhlman said.

The assessment reports that students in the county found the amount of litter and graffiti to be too high and set objectives to help clean up Delaware. These objectives include decreasing the amount of litter in Delaware by implementing social-media messaging for anti-littering and conducting workshops with law enforcement to ensure that state litter laws are being enforced.

Another issue, related to litter and pollution, is asthma, the assessment said.

While a Ohio Department of Health study reported in 2012 that 4.1 percent of children in Delaware County have been diagnosed with asthma, far below the national average of 9.3 percent and the Ohio average of 15.4 percent, Kuhlman said diagnosing and treating are still priorities.

“I think the most important piece of this condition is ensuring that parents are in tune with their child’s health overall, and if they suspect any symptoms related to asthma, that they work with their child’s pediatrician for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan,” Kuhlman said. “There are so many environmental factors that impact the severity of asthma that, with a good treatment plan alongside education/awareness, many asthma attacks could be prevented.”

The assessment sets forth several objectives to help deal with the air quality and asthma. One objective is to have 100 percent of elementary school staff in the county undergo a one-hour in-service asthma training program by 2018 to identify the signs of asthma and its triggers and to learn how to aid students suffering from it.

Another goal is to give presentations to at least 20 percent of Delaware County organizations about improving air quality through energy efficiency and alternative energy.

The Youth Health Assessment also measured students’ drug use, mental health and obesity.

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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