Each year, asthma attacks send tens of thousands of California children to the emergency room. Some of the patients face such severe and enduring symptoms that they are admitted to the hospital for days.

Exposure to pollution long has been a concern for families across the Bay Area, from the waterfront industries in Oakland and Pittsburg to the oil refineries in Benicia and Martinez to the clogged freeways that traverse the South Bay and Peninsula.

In Alameda County, the asthma hospitalization rate -- 20.3 stays for every 10,000 children -- is nearly twice the state average and the third-highest in California, next to rates in Imperial and Fresno counties. Some Oakland neighborhoods sent children to the hospital two or three times as often as that.

Pamela Tapia, a 2011 McClymonds High School graduate.
Pamela Tapia, a 2011 McClymonds High School graduate. (courtesy photo)

What is being done to address this serious health problem?

To find out, The Oakland Tribune will hold a public forum entitled "Asthma -- The Battle To Breathe," March 20, 6-8 p.m. at the California State University East Bay's Oakland Center, 1000 Broadway, Suite 109.

The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited.

Joining the discussion on March 20 will be Joel Ervice, Regional Asthma Management and Prevention associate director, Brenda Rueda-Yamashita, chronic disease program director for the Alameda County Public Health Department, and Prescott-Joseph Center Executive Director Dr. Washington Burns.


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Also on the panel will be McClymonds High School graduate Pamela Tapia, who wrote a piece about her personal battle with asthma for a recent series on the disease by Tribune Education Reporter Katy Murphy and freelance photographer Alison Yin.

Tapia will be joined by student journalist Pearl Joy Balagot, who will talk about what she discovered when researching how the Oakland Unified School District manages field trip protocols for students with asthma.

Moderating the discussions will be Murphy and Martin G. Reynolds, Bay Area News Group senior editor for community engagement.

For more information, contact Reynolds at mymedialab@bayareanewsgroup.com or call 510-208-6433.

To RSVP for the forum, please visit: http://svy.mk/YZSTWb.