OAKLAND (KCBS) – An innovative mobile clinic is getting plenty of use as asthma and other respiratory issues plague certain East Bay communities at a disproportionate rate.

According to a recently published report in the Oakland Tribune, children in Oakland are as much as four times as likely as other California children to suffer severe asthma symptoms.

“We’re close to the Port of Oakland, which has lots of diesel particulate matter coming from the ships and their diesel generators and then also all the trucks that move the freight,” explained Dwayne DeWitt, community planner for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

“Particulate matters are known to cause problems with asthma in young children especially and the elderly,” he said.

That’s why the Breathmobile continues to makes it rounds in the area, providing occasional, mobilized treatment for asthma and other respiratory issues.

The Breathmobile has been in operation since 2009, treating an estimated 330 children thus far. It’s been described as “an asthma clinic on wheels.” In reality, it’s a big, white Winnebago that travels to schools in Oakland, Bayview-Hunters Point, Berkeley, West Contra Costa County and other heavily impacted areas, connecting children with crucial medical attention they might not otherwise get.

A bilingual driver navigates the Breathmobile, which is staffed with a respiratory therapist, doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner, depending on availability.

USC is credited with developing the model for the Breathmobile, and locally, it’s operated by the Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement in West Oakland. Its operating costs run in the neighborhood of $500,000 – paid mostly with grants – and advocates reason that it represents a health care savings in the long run because it likely staves off emergency room visits and hospitalizations that parents of compromised children would otherwise make.

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