Walk raises awareness of asthma in Valley

By Charles Guest / Cguest@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 5, 2012 

A group pushing for government action on asthma and other disease made a stop in Los Banos.

The group, which consists of health care workers, members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West Union and others, sought to bring awareness as members traveled from Fresno to Sacramento, with stops scheduled in Chowchilla and Dos Palos.

Jeneua Washington was among the walkers on the "Asthma Trail."

"On this trail we picked these particular communities because they have the highest rate of asthma here -- because of poor air quality, air pollution, because (of) the agricultural area around," said Washington. "So we're focusing on asthma throughout this community basically and we're collecting stories about how it affects them, because also within these communities people don't have access to health care."

Material handed out by the group states that one in six residents of the Central Valley has asthma, which results in more than $2.5 billion in health-care costs and 152,000 missed school days per year for children.

"We want to bring awareness ... and not only awareness but try to find a way to fix it and come together within the community," said Washington.

A video-storytelling booth was set up at Big Page Park on I Street, where testimonies were collected from residents about the impact of asthma and other chronic conditions. The group plans to deliver the messages to state officials.

Organizers scheduled a American Indian blessing, healing songs and speeches. A table recognizing the Day of the Dead was also set up.

Including participants, about 100 people attended the event.

Mayor Mike Villalta spoke briefly to Lilly Vallee, one of the organizers, about his take on Los Banos air quality.

"I was principal of the junior high," said Villalta. "From what I related when I was principal, (and when I held other positions), we've never had a poor quality air day here because we're somewhat isolated. But things are changing, I know that."

The walk was scheduled to be completed Thursday in Sacramento.

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