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At No. 12, Springfield No Longer Dubbed The 'Asthma Capital' Of The United States

A new report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America finds that Springfield, Massachusetts, now ranks No. 12 on the list of the worst places in the country to live with asthma — an improvement from past years. 

After ranking No. 1 on the list in the 2018 and 2019 reports, asthma prevalence in Springfield has gone down by 10%, according to the AAFA. The foundation said it did not publish a report in 2020 due to the pandemic.

AAFA researchers said the largest contributing factor to Springfield’s improved ranking is that other cities higher on the list had “more significant changes to prevalence, mortality, and emergency room scores.” Allentown, Pennsylvania, now holds the No. 1 ranking.

Springfield’s previous top ranking in the AAFA’s “Asthma Capitals” reports was used as a major talking point by opponents of a planned wood-burning power plant in the city. After more than a decade of debate, the project was upended this spring by multiple regulatory decisions.

Sarita Hudson, director of programs and development for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, said improvements stemmed from asthma health care workers engaging more with Springfield residents on how to reduce triggers. 

“It’s really bridging [the] clinic and community by getting folks who are from the community to be involved in the education,” Hudson said. 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said in its 2021 report the "heaviest burden of asthma" falls on sections of the east coast.
Credit Courtesy / Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said, in its 2021 report, that the heaviest burden of asthma falls on sections of the east coast.

Hudson said that public school educators in the Springfield region have taken steps towards addressing asthma triggers in their schools. 

“In Holyoke public schools, they switched to green cleaning products and put in new maintenance procedures,” Hudson said. “They educated all of their nurses and made it a major effort as well as the work going on in Springfield and Chicopee public schools.”

Hudson said the data on air quality is still limited because it draws on a single monitor in Springfield and another in Chicopee. She said that will change in July with the launch of the Springfield Air Quality Monitoring Project, which will install 80 sensors across Springfield to collect data on pollution hotspots and inform public health measures. 

Regionally, New Haven and Worcester now rank worse than Springfield, at 5th and 11th, respectively. Hartford ranks 17th and Boston 18th. 

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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