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Asthma walk coming to Central Valley

POSTED September 25, 2012 6:20 p.m.

In a YouTube video Stockton nurse Nikita Humphrey describes her asthma attacks as leaving her gasping for air and feeling like her lungs have “totally shut down.”

Humphrey will be joining numerous other healthcare workers and Central Valley residents on the “Asthma Trail,” a walking tour of the Central Valley that is striving to promote asthma awareness and action along the way.

The seven-county walking tour starts Thursday in Fresno and will end Oct. 4 in Sacramento. The trail will also make stops in Chowchilla, Dos Palos, Hanford, Lodi, Los Banos, Madera, Modesto, Selma, Stockton, Turlock, and Visalia.

Called "Walking the Asthma Trail for a Healthy Central Valley,” the main mission of the campaign is to bring awareness to a disease that affects more than 5 million Californians, according to California Asthma Public Health Initiative. With air pollution a chronic concern in the Central Valley, asthma rates are higher in the region than the rest of the state. According to SEIU – United Healthcare Workers West, one of the walk’s co-sponsors, an estimated one in six Central Valley residents have been diagnosed with asthma.

Asthma is a serious and chronic health condition affecting the lungs. It is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood, and is responsible for a large number of missed days at school and work, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease also results in over $2.5 billion in healthcare costs per year, based on data from the UCLA California Health Interview Survey.

During stops on the journey medical volunteers will provide free healthcare services to area residents, including asthma prevention education, screening for asthma and other chronic conditions, and referrals to free and low-cost medical clinics for treatment.

The tour will be at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock on Monday, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. That day the tour is scheduled to walk to Modesto Junior College.

Participants will also host a video storytelling booth at tour stops to gather firsthand testimonies from area residents about the impact asthma and other chronic conditions has on them and their loved ones.

When the walk reaches Sacramento participants will deliver the video stories to state officials and seek support for the governor’s Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force, which is developing a plan to significantly reduce the incidence of chronic disease in California over the next 10 years. The task force, composed of the state’s leading healthcare experts and stakeholders, will present their recommendations – including recommendations to reduce asthma – to the governor in December, leading to possible legislation next year.

The tour is part of Let’s Get Healthy California, a visionary platform the union launched this year to fight chronic diseases, improve the quality of healthcare, and lower healthcare costs by working with community organizations and hospital owners.

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