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From Arts to Health to Wellness, “Every Breath Counts”




Oakland’s Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement (PJC) recently hosted its third annual awards reception and symposium benefit for the Northern California Breath-mobile program.

The gala event, held at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, included a silent auction followed by an awards presentation and panel discussion focused on seeking solutions to the asthma epidemic in the greater Bay Area.

Honorees were Assembly member Rob Bonta; Andrea Bailey, community engagement manager, Chevron Richmond; Leroy Smith, Chairman of San Leandro’s Lions Club; and special recognition of the Volunteer of the Year Mary Frazier, a retired RN.

Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the air passages in the lungs and affects an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 in the U.S. An asthma episode results in narrowed airways and causes violent attacks of coughing, wheezing, frequent hospitalization, and missed school days.

Dr. Washington Burns, executive director of the Prescott-Joseph Center and medical director of the Northern California Breath-mobile stated, “While genetics may be a contributing factor to asthma, there are environmental factors (including poor air quality and mold in homes) and social factors (poverty, lack of education) that are all significant in the increased prevalence of asthma we see today.”

TheNorthern California Breath-mobile was launched in 2011 by PJC providing services to children in 23 schools and head-start programs in the Bay Area. It is one of nine in the country, the first founded in Southern California in 1995.

The Breath-mobile is an asthma clinic on wheels, providing diagnosis, education, treatment and research for children with asthma. It is specially equipped with a crew including an MD and trained asthma personnel. Also, respiratory therapists conduct the necessary evaluation and treatment as well as provide free medicine, limited skin testing and spirometry testing, for lung capacity.

“Two years ago I stayed fearful as I helplessly watched many times my child struggle with his breath,” said Carmen Elyse, a parent whose child has asthma. “We were always ending up in emergency rooms.”

Elyse and her child enrolled into the Breath-mobile program at his school. “Today he lives with little to no complications. It was the education that was important for me. I have a plan on my refrigerator that spells out what to do. When an episode occurs, I now know what to do,” Elyse said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Eric Zee, Pediatric Pulmonologist for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, was joined by a panel that represented the national and Northern California Breath-mobile.

“It’s the elderly and children that suffer the most,” Zee told the audience. He spoke of the worst pollution disaster in 1952 in London that contributed to over 1,000 deaths and led to the Clean Air Act in 1956.

“Because of that incident, today pollution, especially in California, is highly regulated and highly measured” he says.

“We do it because asthma is a chronic disease that can be managed and people can live healthy lives,” Burns said. “We need a second mobile unit so we can do more.”

To learn about PJC, call (510) 835-8683 or visit



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