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UC Merced Partners With the Central California Asthma Collaborative

UC Merced’s Public Health Department wouldn’t have the impact it does without valued community partners who work alongside researchers to directly benefit residents, many of whom don’t have equitable access to services and resources.

One organization that has closely engaged with UC Merced is the Central California Asthma Collaborative (CCAC). Headquartered in Fresno, CCAC is a nonprofit whose mission is to work with lower-income San Joaquin Valley residents to “provide education and direct services, build regional capacity, and advocate for sensible policies that improve health and address inequities by reducing environmental impacts and emphasizing the prevention and management of chronic disease” such as asthma.

“The San Joaquin Valley has some of the highest asthma rates in the state,” CCAC Co-Executive Director Tim Tyner said. “Fresno County has the highest rate of pediatric asthma ER visits in California. Most patients are from low-income families with limited access to preventative healthcare services.”

Since 2021, CCAC has partnered with UC Merced on two important projects.

They have worked with Public Health’s Dr. Asa Bradman to launch the SPHERE [San Joaquin Valley Pollution and Health Environmental Research] study. This study aims to understand exposures to air pollution in people’s homes and their relationship to indicators of health. CCAC is setting up equipment in 55 households in Fresno to monitor numerous air pollutants, and noise, inside and outside the home. Pollution in homes can come from indoors but also from outdoor sources such as traffic-related air pollution, a big source in the San Joaquin Valley. They are also working with Dr. Bradman and Dr. Shijia Pan in Computer Science and Engineering to improve ambient air monitoring in rural communities and expand the air monitoring network they currently operate ( across the San Joaquin Valley. This work will better characterize the impacts of air pollution, especially from short-term events like high pollution caused by wildfires. CCAC is also supporting another of Dr. Bradman’s projects to deploy hundreds of low-cost air monitoring devices across the region. CCAC collects, stores, calibrates, and displays air quality data from these monitors and provides automated text and email alert notifications and recommended actions to protect health on the website, a public resource to inform residents about air quality. You can also download the SJVAir app to receive real-time air quality information and alerts based on the nearest monitor (utilizing your phone’s location services).

In addition to their collaborations with UC Merced, CCAC also collaborates with researchers at UC Berkeley, UCSF and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to study the effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution on children’s health and has established Community Steering Committees in a half dozen Valley communities to engage and educate residents on topics related to air quality. CCAC also provides in-home asthma remediation services to thousands of Medi-Cal patients in all eight counties of the Valley, and leads a collaborative of community-based organization to conduct outreach and education across the state to help people learn about and access California’s electric vehicle (EV) incentives for lower-income families and to help local governments and businesses in disadvantaged communities install EV charging infrastructure by accessing available state incentives.