When I asked groups I was working with if they had asthma, nearly half the room would raise their hands.
I hail from rural Wisconsin where farmland, open space, clean air and safe drinking water are still in abundance. In fact, my hometown is called Eau Claire, or "clean water" in French. Until I moved to Rhode Island, I had spent my entire life in central and northern Wisconsin. Needless to say, when I arrived in Rhode Island, the first thing I noticed was the smell. I can't quite pin it down, but it was a combination that, as I said to my dad as he unpacked my dorm room, smelled 'dirty'.
I learned that Rhode Island has very poor air quality in its urban centers and has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation. In fact, some warned me that running outside for long periods of time, especially when it was hot and humid, might be hurting my lungs rather than helping them. As I transitioned into my post-college life, I started doing community health outreach work in both Newport and Providence. When I asked groups I was working with if they had asthma, nearly half the room would raise their hands. This was shocking to me, especially as I thought back to my hometown in Wisconsin where it was rare, and taken very seriously, when a child or adult was diagnosed with asthma.
And that is why I do what I do today. We all deserve access to clean air as part of our right to safe, happy and healthy lives . Right now, many people, especially those living in urban areas in Rhode Island, do not have that access.