Residents of Dallas, Texas plant trees in their neighborhood.
Cool and Connected Oak Cliff Residents of Dallas, Texas plant trees in their neighborhood. © Mark Graham

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Breathe Easy Dallas

At the Dallas Clean Air Action Day on June 22, The Nature Conservancy and The City of Dallas announced a first-of-its-kind study for North Texas: Breathe Easy Dallas. The project will study the impact of practical solutions like reduced car idling, campus-based health initiatives and tree planting on air quality and asthma-related absenteeism at identified schools.

“Dallas has a persistent problem with poor air quality and pediatric asthma, but thus far we’ve lacked the data to most effectively and equitably direct programs and resources to address health and air quality,” says James McGuire, Managing Director of the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ). The Dallas-Fort Worth region consistently fails to meet regulatory limits on ozone pollution and, according to health researchers, “far exceeds both the state and national rates” for childhood asthma. Moreover, Dallas County leads the region for hospitalizations from childhood asthma, and respiratory issues are a leading cause of absenteeism among Dallas Independent School District (DISD) students.

“Poor air quality is one of the leading environmental health challenges in cities globally, affecting vulnerable populations and communities disproportionately,” says Kathy Jack, Ph.D., Dallas Urban Conservation Associate for The Nature Conservancy. The Center for Disease Control finds that black children in the U.S. are twice as likely as white children to have asthma, and with greater severity—experiencing higher-than-average rates of hospitalization, emergency room visits and deaths from asthma. Recent research also demonstrates a link between asthma and an increased risk of falling into poverty. “With Breathe Easy Dallas, we hope to improve the health, happiness and learning of all Dallas children,” remarks Jack. 

Local government, education, non-profit and healthcare leaders in Dallas are eager to improve outcomes for asthmatic children, but to do so, they need quality data and well-coordinated resources to design locally-effective solutions related to air quality and human health. Phase I of Breathe Easy Dallas, funded by the ClimateWorks Foundation with additional support from the Hoblitzelle Foundation, will gather baseline data on air quality and asthma-related absenteeism at selected DISD schools. Air monitors at Breathe Easy Dallas schools will share data via the City’s Smart City platform. Phase II will implement and study the impact of health and nature-based solutions to asthma-related absenteeism at DISD. Breathe Easy Dallas will provide a replicable model for high-risk Texas schools to improve absenteeism and provide better educational and economic outcomes in Texas communities.

Breathe Easy Dallas will kick off with the new school year in fall 2018, with baseline data expected to be compiled in June 2019.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.