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GLENDALE — Healthcare representatives may add asthma to the list of “high profile” public health indicators for Glendale after a report earlier this year found the number of adults suffering from the respiratory affliction had jumped 105% over the last three years.

As 12 subcommittees work to finalize their data sets for the forthcoming Quality of Life Indicators report, Bruce Nelson, community services director for Glendale Adventist Medical Center and chairman of the public health committee, said he would like to see asthma placed in the same category as cardiovascular disease and prenatal care when measuring the community’s health.

Healthcare providers were surprised in May to discover that asthma rates had jumped 105% for residents aged 25 to 64, and about 40% for those 20 and younger. The report to the Glendale Healthier Community Coalition did not specify a cause for the increase.

Designating the asthma issue as a top public health priority, Nelson said, would put hospitals in a better position to apply for grant funding to study the issue further.

Before any program to address the problem is created, the exact cause for the increase must be determined for maximum impact, said Amy Stricker, a spokeswoman for Glendale Memorial Hospital, which has a top-rated pulmonary program.

Whether the increased asthma rates are due to an unknown risk factor, pollution source or lifestyle habit, more study was called for, Nelson said.

“It’s difficult for me to accept that there’s just more pollution in Glendale than in other areas,” he said.

Proximity to three major highways, mountain-constrained valleys and a light industrial corridor is not unique to Glendale. And the east San Fernando Valley region, of which Glendale is a part, typically experiences fewer daily unhealthy air designations than other Southland areas, according to annual reports from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

But as a whole, Glendale is well within the boundaries of the Los Angeles air basin, which was flagged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week for failing to meet stricter air quality standards established in 2006.

“It’s really clear that the Los Angeles Basin has one of the worst fine particle problems in the country,” said Matt Haber, deputy director for the Air Division of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.

Fine particles expelled from car tailpipes, power plants, manufacturing sectors and other sources create smog, which aggravates asthma, according to the EPA.

While pollution controls are largely a state issue, local health officials have said some sort of unified health response is needed to deal with the jump in asthma rates.

“I think this needs to be more than a single organization, because we don’t really have a handle on what’s causing it,” Nelson said.

The upcoming Quality of Life indicators report is scheduled to be presented to the City Council later this year.


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