Having asthma doesn't have to mean you can't have fun. That was the message to some Harlem kids who have the respiratory disease who turned out Saturday for a day of exercise and activity. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
5-year-old Malika Troare doesn't know when she was diagnosed with asthma. But she's well aware of what an attack feels like.
"It feels a lot of pain," she said. "It makes you a lot of coughing and stuff."
On Saturday, she was one of dozens of kids who turned out for a fitness day at the Harlem Armory for those living with asthma.
"Our kids are often told that they can't participate, they can't be on a sports team, they can't go to the dance or whatever it is," said Shoshanah Brown, the executive director of AIR Harlem. "And that's just not true, as long as their asthma is under control."
Sponsored by Asthma Intervention and Relief or AIR Harlem, the fitness day gave the kids a chance to do activities others take for granted: playing soccer, shooting hoops and dancing.
The New York City Department of Health says asthma is more common in low-income neighborhoods and in black and Hispanic children. East Harlem has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the city.
"In Central Harlem, we found over the years, consistently, the prevalence rate to be about 30 percent, which is higher than what the Department of Health data show. That's through our own survey work," Brown said. "That's compared to about 8 percent elsewhere in the city and 4 percent elsewhere in the country."
AIR Harlem helps about 900 kids, visiting them and their families at home every three months to educate them about asthma triggers, medications and management.
Parents of children with asthma say events like Saturday's fitness day are so important because they encourage their children to participate in exercise and activity with other children.
"For kids, when they stay home, they don't move enough, they watch a lot of TV," said one parent. "But when they are outdoors, they really do get to move. The movement is really good."
The kids say they were just happy to burn some energy.
"It's good for your body to run around," said one participant.