Asthma Awareness Project in Puerto Rico

By Carmen Torrent

Recently, I had a respiratory problem and had to use an inhaler to breathe better. It’s very difficult to describe the sensation of helplessness that I felt because I never experienced something like that before. I was very lucky because I was with two of my colleagues who knew what to do due to their training. That experience has increased my passion to continue my outreach efforts at EPA educating the Latino community about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and asthma management.

I am the EPA project officer working with a Turabo University in Puerto Rico project led by Dr. Teresa Lipsett. This project, Indoor Air Quality Champions in Puerto Rico, is funded by EPA. Dr. Lipsett and her team of students, teachers, and volunteers are known for their enthusiasm for increasing the knowledge about indoor air quality (IAQ) and asthma management in public schools in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world; about 30% of Puerto Rican children have asthma.

Among the main objectives of this project are: increase the number of public schools with effective indoor air quality management practices and plans based on the EPA IAQ Tools for Schools program; create an asthma friendly environment; transforming school teachers into IAQ champions thru IAQ education and support; and build local capacity to create and sustain and IAQ programs in participating schools.

The University of Turabo team translated the IAQ Tools for Schools guidance and adapted it to the Puerto Rican culture to be used at participating schools. As part of this project, team members conduct IAQ trainings, host educational panel and conferences, created ecological clubs (EKOLOG), maintain a Facebook page, and have recorded plays available on You Tube.

During the first year of this project Dr. Lipsett and her team were able to educate more than 6,000 students, teachers and parents. By the end of the four year agreement UT expects to reach more than 38,000 students, teachers and parents.

The passion and devotion of the University of Turabo team are amazing. Their dedication overflows in abundance and even excites the children. Watch this video of students singing about improving their school’s indoor air quality to the tune of Puerto Rican style Christmas carols.  I’m proud to be part of this effort.

You can find more information about this project online at Asthma Community Network.

About the author: Carmen Torrent a public affairs specialist in EPA’s Office of Indoor Air.

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