Redlining is affecting Northeast Ohio’s children’s ability to breathe. Here’s what we can do | NPR News

Cayden Dillon was 7 years old and was playing with kindergarten students on February 20, 2022.

“His gym teacher had started to notice that he was having trouble breathing,”Tracy Dillion, Tracy Dillion’s mother, stated the following: “They ended up calling 911 because they just didn’t know what was happening or if it was something bad.”

Cayden was rushed to the emergency room by an ambulance.

“They gave him some kind of steroid to keep his airway [open] so it wasn’t so hard for him to breathe,”Dillon, who called it an ordeal, said: “very scary.”

Cayden was officially diagnosed with asthma upon his arrival at the hospital.

Dillion and her children live in Slavic Village on Cleveland’s southeast side, in the same five-bedroom home where she was raised in the 1990s.

The home has been in Dillion’s family for nearly 50 years, and she has lived there her entire life. Now, she’s raising her own kids — Tavion, 10, Cayden, 7, and Neveah, 6 — in the same house.

The Dillons are very familiar with asthma. All three of their children have asthma. They are not the only ones who struggle to breathe.

Some of the following are applicable to children who live in Slavic Village: The highest rates of asthma in children are in the nation — regardless of Ethnicity and race. However, asthma rates in Northeast Ohio are almost the same for children.

Brenda Lee Elkins-Wylie was born in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood. In the 1960s, Elkins-Wylie watched children play outside the apartment that she shared with her mom. She claimed that her asthma symptoms were so severe that she was forced to stay indoors most of the time.

“One year, I missed two months of school,”She said. “It was really hard at times.”

Tee Tee Bonnie, a 30 mile south, grew in Akron’s North Hill neighbourhood. Tee Tee Bonnie can sometimes be heard wheezing in the middle of the night and reaching for her inhaler.

Before moving to Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood, Bonnie, who is now in her 30s, lived with her mother in a century-old house in North Hill, where dust, cigarette smoke and lack of ventilation triggered “terrifying”Asthma symptoms.

“I started getting chest pains and real shortness of breath,”Bonnie recalled a terrifying asthma attack she suffered in middle-school. “It was hard to breathe, and I started wheezing.”

People who live in Hough and Slavic Village in Cleveland and North Hill in Akron are more likely to suffer from asthma than the national average — which is About 8%According to data gathered from the University of RichmondThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the asthma rates vary from one neighborhood to another. Each part was likely redlined over a century ago. Home Owners Loan CorporationMaps show.

HOLC Cleveland redlining map 1939

Redlining is still a discriminatory lending method that was first used in 1930s to refuse loans and insurance to high-risk neighborhoods. Redlining was a practice which devalued neighborhoods in which Black people lived, and other people of colour. This led to a shortage in resources for predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Ultimately, HOLC’s maps were not used to deny people mortgages based on race — but they informed real estate practices at the Federal Housing Authority and private banks and mortgage lenders that did, historians say.

At minimum, two studies. CaliforniaAnother in PittsburghSome researchers believe there is a correlation between living in areas with redlines in the past and an increased likelihood of suffering from asthma today.

According to Slavic Village: Asthma is at its worst DataCollect by the Better Health PartnershipA regional health cooperative.

About 28% of Black childrenBroadway-Slavic Village residents have been diagnosed with asthma. That’s more than twice the Black child mortality rate is average, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and More than 3.5 Times the CDC’s national average.

Slavic Village_Image_1.jpg

The Pittsburgh study also concluded redlining was a contributing factor to long-term environmental-related inequities and asthma-related inequalities that disproportionately affected Black residents.

“We directly link racist loaning practices more than 80 years ago to the maintenance of poor environmental quality in the most redlined neighborhoods today,”Alexander Schuyler, M.D. is the lead writer. Alexander Schuyler, M.D. Student in M.D. and Ph.D. Pitt’s Medical Scientist Training Program. “Our data, in turn, connects the higher pollution exposures to worsened asthma outcomes. In short, institutional racism — not race-based biology — is why many Black Pittsburghers experience severe asthma.”

Today’s children continue to suffer from yesterday’s problem

Elkins-Wylie, who is a native of Hough lives in Slavic Village, in a single-family home with her cat and two dogs. Cleveland Public Health’s director is Dr. David Margolius. He was formerly employed at the MetroHealth Clinic on Broadway Avenue in Slavic Village. Elkins-Wylie presently resides there.

“I think any visitor to Slavic Village and Broadway would be struck by the amount of industrial and commercial traffic that is all around you,”Cleveland Public Health’s director is Dr. David Margolius. He used to work at a MetroHealth Clinic in Slavic Village on Broadway Avenue, just a few blocks from Elkins-Wylie’s current home.

Margolius pointed it out Recent studies suggest thatLiving near freeways can increase the risk of developing asthma and decrease lung function.


Margolius stated that Black children are not a problem. faceA negative outlook can lead to other health problems as they grow.

Dr. Kristie Ross, chief of the pediatric pulmonary division at University Hospitals’ Cleveland Medical Center, focuses on children with asthma and sleep apnea in her practice — conditions Ross says are “plagued”Health disparities

Families that live in historically poor and redlined communities are at highest risk. “perfect storm”She stated that environmental factors can cause harm to their health.

Elkins-Wylie fled Hough in the latter 1970s. Lakeview TerraceHOLC maps also indicate that a redline was also applied in the neighborhood of.

Lakeview Terrace is located near the West Shoreway freeway, and the reinforced Cuyahoga River Bank. It was the nation’s first federally funded public housing project.

Poor air quality has affected Lakeview residents because they live close to industry. decades. Today, the neighborhood’s asthma rate is Nearly 12%Data from the University of Richmond


Elkins-Wylie’s asthma struggles are not isolated to Cleveland. Cleveland is the most populated of the five largest cities in the country. Ohio Valley Asthma Belt — with higher asthma rates than Columbus, Dayton and Detroit, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2021 Asthma Capitals report.

Elkins-Wylie claims that asthma is a problem in many of her adult children.

Nationally, Cleveland ranks sixth in the nation on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation’sListe of “asthma capitals,”Asthma symptoms are difficult and costly to manage.

Ross explained that asthma results from the environment we grow up in.

“All of those things, whether it’s toxins from air pollution or toxins from stress, that exposure impacts the way the genes are expressed at the genetic level,”She said. “Not just the DNA you’re born with, but how it gets turned on.”

How did we get here?

In the 1930s, the Home Owners Loan Corporation began to study the financial risk for bankers in Cleveland’s Slavic Village.

The environment was not very pleasant. The area was not pleasant. “detrimentally affected by smoke, soot, fumes and dirt,”According to a description of this neighborhood, which was created by HOLC around the 1930s.

Our interactive map is based on HOLC maps and allows you to see how different Cleveland communities were described. Click on your area to see the original HOLC description.

The descriptions also listed the types people who lived in the area.

According to the card, around 70% of the residents of the Slavic Village were Polish immigrants. However, the residents maintained their lawns, trimmed shrubbery, and kept their yards tidy. “limited income of these residents leaves much to be desired in the renovation.”


HOLC gave the neighborhood a D rating. The area was “hazardous”It was a determination by banks and mortgage lenders.

On HOLC’s maps, neighborhoods fall in one of four categories: Neighborhoods that were coded green for “Best,”They were given an A rating. B neighborhoods are blue “Still Desirable,”C. “Definitely Declining”Red for the D- and D-neighborhoods “Hazardous.”

Many times, black and immigrant neighborhoods were considered unacceptable. “hazardous”According to The, risk was the reason for decades worth of disinvestment. University of Richmond.

Black Americans make up a significant percentage of the American people today. More likely than white AmericansData journalists found that it is difficult to live in historically-redlined areas. These areas in Northeast Ohio, and elsewhere in the country, are often plagued with aging homes and high amounts of air pollution. This can make it difficult to manage asthma and allergen triggers like dust and mold.

White Clevelanders began to move out of the city’s core in the middle of the 20th century, sometimes heading further east to the suburbs. Maple Heights, Shaker HeightsBoth codes are coded in blue and green “Best”And “Still Desirable”According to historians, the HOLC maps are shown.

However, black residents began to live in older neighborhoods. In the middle of 1960s, Around 90% of Black Clevelanders lived in a cluster of redlined neighborhoods on the city’s East Side, according to Cleveland Historical, a project by Cleveland State University.

Many of Cedar Central’s Black residents were driven to their deaths in the 1940s by a highway. Hough. According to the Hough Daily News, as Hough’s population exploded city officials failed to enforce housing regulations meant to keep residents safe. Cleveland Historical:

“Vacant homes deteriorated, becoming hazards to the community and breeding grounds for vermin. Even as Hough’s physical condition declined, residents were regularly charged high rents due to the limited housing options available to the Black community in Cleveland and the refusal of suburbs to accept Black residents.”

Elkins-Wylie, an Hough native, recalls the apartment in which she lived falling apart and being overrun with pests and rats.

“I remember seeing the rats come out from a hole under the sink,”She spoke. “I was so scared. I used to cover my face, but once I felt something run across me. I was absolutely terrified.”

Today, she said doctors have linked her childhood exposure to pest and rodent droppings, mold and other household environmental factors to many of her lifelong allergies — which often trigger or intensify asthma symptoms, making the diagnosis more difficult to treat and manage over time.

“The allergies upset the asthma,” Elkins-Wylie said. “When you’re around mold, dampness, rats, mice or roaches, that’s going to affect it.”

Elkins-Wylie stated that before signing the lease for her current home in Slavic Village, she had checked for rodents everywhere.

The Slavic Village neighborhood showed the same pattern. The former Polish enclave is today a predominantly Black neighborhood — about 50% of residents are Black and 8% Hispanic, according to the Center for Community Solutions. Two-fifths (25%) of all residents are in poverty.


The pattern also played out in Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood, where summer cottages for the wealthy have now become year-round homes for people with lower incomes.

“In terms of air quality, we’re doing great,”Sam Rubens is a long-standing laboratory analysis for the Akron Regional Air Quality Management District. The aging housing stock poses grave health risks.


“The houses in Summit Lake were never meant to be year-round,” Rubens said. “They were all just summer houses for the rich. When everybody moved on and the rich people moved out to the west side and they stopped using Summit Lake because it became too polluted, [the houses] became year-round residences for people with low incomes.”

What can people do right away?

Sue Cummings fights asthma with vacuum cleaners, HEPA filter furnace filters and vacuum cleaners.

Cummings is the director of Summit County’s Management of Asthma Triggers Home (MATH program)Since 1996, she has been working in public health. Her program operates in partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital and currently serves about 400 of Summit County’s most vulnerable pediatric asthma patients.

She stated that she has witnessed firsthand the impact simple asthma mitigation strategies can have on people’s lives.

Check out our interactive map based HOLC mapping to see which Akron neighborhoods were described. Click on your neighborhood to see the original HOLC description.

MATH is available to high-risk patients and their families, for a year. They offer in-home assessments, mitigation techniques, and valuable resources like vacuum cleaners, and other devices, for no charge.

“My families are [living in] poor housing stock. Typically, it’s older homes, and the older homes have issues,” Cummings said. “They have basements that leak that create mold or mildew. They have lead paint.”

Cummings is also an expert on healthy homes and lead paint risk assessments for Summit County. He stated that lead can cause damage to the brain and lungs.

“Often what we see with [lead paint] is a dust issue,” Cummings said. “As these houses fall into disrepair and you open and shut windows, you cause friction and friction creates dust [that] falls on the floor and the kid’s pacifier falls on the floor or the toys fall on the floor or they crawl on the floor and put everything in their mouth.”

Now in its third year, Cummings also said data collected via the MATH program has proven that simple asthma mitigation strategies were effective in reducing hospital visits and healthcare costs for families of pediatric asthma patients — potentially by thousands of dollars per year.

“I am actually making a difference to these kids,”Cummings stated that asthmatic children can sleep, learn and play without being affected by their asthma symptoms. Their quality of life may improve.

The Cleveland Regional Nonprofit Environmental Health Watch (EHW)It also works to create safer and healthier living environments.

Executive Director Kim Foreman said asthma mitigation has been part of EHW’s mission since the organization was founded in 1980.

EHW distributed resources, such as vacuum cleaners and dehumidifiers via the MATH program. Healthy Homes Assessment Service pilot program. EHW currently does not offer this program to the general public. It is currently seeking a new managed organization and additional funds. Foreman explained that the program helped families to identify asthma triggers, as well as other health issues at home.

Recent $67 Million contribution to the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition from the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Clinic may possibly help expand the Resource Center’s Work, Foreman said.

Although air purifiers can be a great way to improve your home’s environment, the U.S. must have higher air quality standards in order to address the systemic issues that are worsening asthma symptoms and shortening lives, according to Yvonka Hall (executive director of the American Asthma Society). Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition.


Her organization recently asked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House to raise standards to cut pollution that aggravates asthma, chronic pulmonary disease and COVID among all people — but especially among Black Clevelanders, Hall said.

“We know that the African American community faces greater health risks even when they meet standard health risks,”She said. “The standards are so low that we’re being poisoned. We have to raise the standards.”

Redlining’s legacy is certainly part of that, Hall said. Everyone is affected by the air quality problem.

“When we look at the historical picture around redlining and how African Americans are dying, we have been redlined to death,”She said. “We have been put in situations that are beyond our control that have affected how long we live. We have been forced into these toxic communities that are costing our lives.”

Since 2016, life expectancy has increased. All Americans are affected.Hall stated that African Americans had lost five year’s worth of their lives.

“When we started doing this work they said, ‘These kids are going to be the first generation that won’t live longer than their parents,’”She said. “But, hell, nobody said it was going to be me. It’s you.”

Dillion is helping her children cope while Ohio’s policymakers and public health experts work together to find systemic solutions.


After Cayden’s diagnosis, she worked with doctors to develop a care plan that includes two separate inhalers: one Cayden uses twice daily and another for emergencies — when he can feel an asthma attack coming on.

Dillion said she’s also in the process of getting the family’s home tested for mold and other allergens but had trouble accessing home inspections free of charge.

Nearly 50 years after Dillion’s grandmother purchased the home in 1975, a few storm windows are cracked in their frames. To expose the layers below the siding was removed at the corners.

“When Cayden was born, on the papers from the hospital, they said he had issues with his lungs,”Dillion stated. “But I didn’t know that. Nobody ever told me that.”

Today, Cayden’s asthma symptoms are under control in large part because he has access to the daily medication he needs. But it’s not easy to live with asthma or to care for children suffering from the disease — and it’s not cheap either.

While Dillon’s children’s insurance covers their treatment, she has to pay out-of-pocket for her own inhalers and medicine. An ambulance ride for her son, which costs $700, can be out-of pocket.

“Like with medical bills, yeah, they’ll give you time to pay them, but if you don’t pay them on time they’re continuing to send bills,” Dillon said. “It’s a day-to-day struggle.”

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