Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Milwaukee ranks high on asthma list

A national study recently ranked Milwaukee the fifth-worst city for people with asthma for 2006.

This study, conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, considered 12 factors which were divided among prevalence, risk and medical categories. Public smoking bans in bars, restaurants and the workplace were one of the heaviest-weighted factors.

"Until Milwaukee passes those three [smoking] laws, they will stay high on the list because the whole country has made that move to ban smoking in public," AAFA spokesperson Angel Waldron said.


In addition to a lack of public smoking bans, Waldron cited other conditions — including high pollen levels and high death rates due to asthma — as contributing factors to cities earning the worst rankings.

Scranton, Penn., was ranked the worst city for people with asthma.

Madison, however, fared much better, ranking 13th-best of the worst 100 cities.

Many cite Madison's citywide public-smoking ban as a major factor in its higher air quality.

State Rep. Jason Fields, D-Milwaukee, agreed enacting smoking bans similar to those in Madison would improve Milwaukee's ranking in the future.

"I think a smoking ban will improve the conditions for asthmatics," Fields said.

Fields, an asthma sufferer himself, said he believes second-hand smoke severely worsens conditions for people with asthma.

"[A smoking ban] is definitely going to make [Milwaukee] a conducive place for us to breathe and live," he added.

Plans are currently in the works to enact a smoking ban in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee received an "F" in air quality based on the national average, showing that public-smoking laws are only part of the reason for the high asthma ranking.

In addition to environmental factors, social and natural causes contribute to Milwaukee's poor asthma conditions.

According to Dr. John Meurer, medical director of Downtown Health Center in Milwaukee, the prevalence of asthma among African-Americans is higher than those from white backgrounds.

The burden of suffering is therefore increased due to the higher population of African-Americans in Milwaukee, Meurer added.

"The poverty rate of African-Americans [in Milwaukee] is highest of the 30 largest cities in the U.S.," he said. "This affects the access to medical care."

Meurer also pointed out that the best asthma specialists are located in the suburbs of Milwaukee, making it less accessible to asthmatics living in the city.

Additionally, Milwaukee's high levels of ragweed in the fall contributed to the high ranking because asthmatics have more trouble with high pollen levels.

While poor environmental factors are proven to increase problems for asthmatics, Meurer stressed the importance of public-health awareness in dealing with asthma.

According to Meurer, an individual can counter poor environmental conditions by avoiding tobacco smoke, taking appropriate medication and avoiding environmental triggers such as allergens.

Fields also emphasized the fact that asthmatics can control their health despite living in a city with poor conditions, but acknowledged the difficulties.

"When you're not in shape or surrounded by polluted areas or you don't know how to manage your health, it will be tough," Fields said.

Despite the study's negative findings, Fields is hopeful for the future.

"I believe conditions in Milwaukee are exactly where we want to be headed," he said.

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