2021: A Breath of Fresh Air

2021: A Breath of Fresh Air

For Breathe California Sacramento Region (BREATHE), like many organizations and people, 2020 was an unprecedented year. Having never experienced a shutdown of this nature, we were not sure what to do last March 14, so we all went home and got to work, collaboratively and virtually, figuring out how we continue engaging the greater Sacramento region in the important air quality and lung health work that we do. While we didn’t have all of the right systems in place at first, we quickly found a way to work effectively in this new ‘normal’ of conducting business virtually.

Now, a full year later, as nearly half a million Sacramentans have been vaccinated[1], our region has entered the red tier and businesses are starting to open, the clocks are set forward, and like them, we are looking forward. There is a great feeling of renewal and reawakening and it feels like the perfect time to share some of the great new beginnings happening at BREATHE. We’ve been busy the last 12 months, so read on to see what’s new with us as we keep ourselves safe by getting vaccinated, wearing our masks, and distancing as we strive for 70% immunity!

Our Work Continues

All our programs remain remote while we look for safe ways to engage the communities with which we work, including Zoom meetings or distanced site visits. The Our Community Carshare cars keep rolling, the school-based food waste program has been adapted for homes with portable compost kits, our students review movies and TV for tobacco content from their homes, and the Youth Advisory Board gets together over Zoom (all that’s missing is the pizza!). Almost across the board, we’ve seen program participation increased as we endeavored to meet folks where they stand with Zoom instructions translated into other languages, text messaging alerts replacing paper flyers, and branded masks and bottles of hand sanitizer replacing t-shirts and tote bags as giveaway items.

Improved Communications

In the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, when reliable information was scarce and confusion was rampant, we sprang into action. We quickly started a regular e-newsletter that worked as a one-stop shop for the latest public health information from our partners at Sacramento County, Centers for Disease Control, Sacramento County Department of Public Health, and the American Public Health Association, along with collections of current, researched, and supported articles from a variety of trusted sources. As part of a retooling of our communication efforts via a partnership with Uptown Studios, we chose this month to sunset the Covid specific newsletter but have compiled the information here. We are excited to have added capacity in our communications efforts and know that it will lead to us getting the word out to a wider audience about the very important work we are doing.

Now What?

The BREATHE staff continues to work remotely and we are looking at how to return to work in a hybrid model. We’re very excited to have been chosen to participate in SACOG’s Telework Policy Pilot Program, through which we are working with a telework consultant to help us optimize our return to office-based work, and how we can encourage BREATHE employees to live our values by skipping the single occupant vehicle commute once in a while and work from home a few days a week. And with spring cleaning on our minds, our building at 909 12th Street is getting some love too! We’re very excited to have a wonderful BREATHE Board Building Committee working hard to get us freshened up with some new paint and other deferred maintenance. Keep an eye out for an update as we look to turn the façade into a canvas as we work to get a mural on the building!

The building is not the only thing that will be taking on a new look at BREATHE in the coming months. As our programs continue to grow, our team will too. We will soon be hiring a Clean Air Programs Associate to add capacity to our air quality initiatives including providing outreach and education for the Our Community CarShare program, implementing food waste recycling in more than 20 local schools, and monitoring air quality in underserved neighborhoods in our community. We are looking forward to bringing someone new into the fold and can’t wait to see this wonderful team of dedicated, talented, and passionate people grow. Please feel free to share the opening with your networks as we’re always looking for top talent!

Of the many challenges that emerged for us this year, one familiar foe continued to rear its ugly head; Asthma. In our dialogs across communities and focus areas, we have been reminded that asthma continues to be a significant public health issue. As poor air quality from various emissions sources continues to impact our neighborhoods and experience more wildfire smoke events year over year, Sacramento County[PG3]  has higher asthma rates than the state average (15% for the state and 19% for Sacramento) [2], adversely affecting the communities most in need of support. Work is already underway to partner with other public health focused organizations as we seek funding for a robust, community-based asthma program which offers education, management plans and actionable, low-cost mitigation strategies.

Finally, we want to keep this momentum going. In an unprecedented year of unknowns, the BREATHE team feels better than ever. We’ve learned from COVID and from how we’ve had to adapt. Our future operations will include Zoom links for all meetings, conducting outreach from the new Media Room at the Breathe Building made possible by SMUD Sustainable Communities that’s coming soon, a Breathe Bike Trek like we’ve never seen before, an all virtual Breathe Youth Media Awards with more submissions than ever, and a whole host of small victories that has kept us plugging along. As our 100+ years of history as a lung health organization illustrates, we are always growing, changing and adapting with the world around us.

In This Together

We are looking forward to breathing a bit easier this year and we do so in the company of our friends, partners and supporters. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, there will be lots of opportunities this year as we clean up e-waste [link to CTCP ARPF clean up], roll into our second socially distanced Breathe Bike Trek, or become a clean air advocate. You can always help support our mission monthly by joining the Breathe Deep monthly giving campaign (and get a free mug or more!) and this year’s Big Day of Giving. Your continued support allows us the flexibility to continually meet the lung health challenges of the day!

[1] https://www.abc10.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-numbers/latest-covid-vaccine-numbers- northern-california/103-5c280b49-05b9-44be-ab9d-27c99b15b093

[2] https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/content/dam/internet/kp/comms/import/uploads/2019/09/Sacramento-CHNA-2019.pdf

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