Queens Hospital Center puts asthma van on road

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Asthma is a chronic disease which causes inflammation of the airways, sometimes...

By Betsy Scheinbart

The Queens Hospital Center Monday unveiled its new asthma van, a tool to help screen children and educate residents about the disease that affects 35,000 people in Queens.

Asthma is a chronic disease which causes inflammation of the airways, sometimes restricting air flow in and out of the lungs.

The Queens Health Network, which includes Queens and Elmhurst hospitals, held the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica as part of a new four-year partnership between the network and the library.

Jamaica is the neighborhood with the highest rate of hospitalizations for childhood asthma in Queens. Asthma is the leading cause of hospitalization for city children.

“The van will come into the community, educate the community, screen people to determine those who are prone to serious attacks,” said Antonio Martin, Queens Hospital Center’s chief operating officer.

The screening consists of a number of questions developed by a pulmonologist at Queens Hospital, Martin said.

The event was the result of more than a year of planning by the health network and the community leaders who petitioned for the asthma initiative.

The Rev. Charles Norris, executive secretary of the Southeast Queens Clergy, and Solomon Goodrich, president of the Southern Queens Parks Association, Roy Wilkins Park, saw how asthma was affecting their communities and went to the hospital officials for help.

“Norris and Goodrich came to us to develop strategies,” Martin said. “It’s the best of both worlds when an institution and the community-based organizations come together like this.”

Board members from the Queens Health Network and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation funded the $60,000 van.

Inside the van there is a bench for two people and a lounge chair for an educator. The van offers a link to the Queens Hospital computer system, so people can make an appointment with a doctor from the vehicle.

The van is wheelchair accessible, has a pull-out awning for outdoor events, a lighting system for evening sessions and a speaker system.

Norris said the network’s commitment to asthma prevention helped to restore his confidence in the health care system.

“Our children miss so much schooling,” Norris said. “Now this van may be able to get them back to school or identify if they have a problem.”

Goodrich, who hosts 1,000 youngsters each year at the summer camp at Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, applauded the development of the van as a prevention tool.

“While asthma is not easily cured, I have learned that it can be managed,” he said.

Thomas Alford, the Queens Library deputy director for customer services, said he was glad to kick off the library’s partnership with the health network, a sentiment echoed by Queens Health Network Senior Vice President Pete Velez.

“Hopefully, with this relationship we will be able to have information online” and available at the library, Velez said. “This relationship is an opportunity to spread the word” on asthma prevention and management.

The health network hopes to fund another van for Elmhurst Hospital by next year.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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