Vol. 21 •Issue 11 • Page 15
Study: Tree-Lined Streets May Help Curb Asthma Rates
Children who live along tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma than others, according to a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The researchers base their findings on asthma rates among 4- and 5-year-olds and hospital admissions for the disease among children up to age 15 from 42 health service districts in New York City.
The medical data were then plotted against city data on the number of trees in each area, sources of pollution, racial and ethnic make-up and population density. The city had an average of 613 street trees per square kilometer, and 9 percent of young children had asthma.
Asthma rates in this age group fell by almost a quarter for every standard deviation increase in tree density, equivalent to 343 trees per square kilometer. This pattern held true even after taking sources of pollution, levels of affluence and population density into consideration.
However, tree density had no impact on hospital admissions for asthma among older children, after taking other influential factors into account.
The findings do not mean the number of trees in any city is directly related to asthma rates among individuals, cautioned the authors from New York’s Columbia University. But trees may curb asthma rates by encouraging children to play outdoors more or by improving air quality.
New York City is planning to plant a million extra trees by 2017, and these could provide the opportunity to discover exactly what impact tree density has on asthma, they add.
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Panel Establishes Disaster Medicine Core Competencies
The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SARS and the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 spurred the creation of disaster medicine as a specialty.
As part of the creation of the new specialty, scientifically based core competencies for board certification in disaster medicine were formulated after President Bush signed the Homeland Security Presidential Directive into law, creating the discipline of disaster health care.
Competencies, released earlier this month, were authored by a disaster medicine taskforce, headed by Maurice A. Ramirez, DO, BCEM, CNS, CMRO, founding chair of the American Board of Disaster Medicine.
As a disaster health care expert, he encourages all health care providers to receive training in Basic Disaster Life Support and to pursue Advanced Disaster Life Support training.
“It is my hope that every physician with a leadership role in disaster preparedness will seek board certification in disaster medicine,” he said.
In a related area, an influential group of physicians earlier this month released a grimly specified list of recommendations outlining patients who would not be treated during a disaster where the number of patients outnumbered the available resources.
Among those moved to the back of the line would be the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma patients, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.
That suggested list was compiled by a task force of people representing universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies.
Proposed guidelines were designed to be a blueprint for hospitals “so everybody will be thinking in the same way,” noted Asha Devereaux, MD, a critical care specialist in San Diego.
The idea is to make certain resources like ventilators, medicines and caregivers are used in a uniform manner. The recommendations appear in the May edition of Chest.