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1903 On May 28, at the Hotel Westminster, the Los Angeles Society for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis was formed to serve a city population then about 319,000 and growing. With 250 members and a treasury of $175 offices were soon set up in the now historic Bradbury Building and a "Helping Station" to assist "consumptives" was established at 737 Buena Vista Street. The epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) known then as the "white plague," and "consumption" was responsible for one in eight deaths at the turn of the century.
1920's In 1921, a group of area pulmonary physicians gathered to form the "Trudeau Tuberculosis Society." The Trudeau Society is still with us today continuing to educate and innovate the field of lung and respiratory disease. By the end of the 1920's the newly reorganized and renamed Los Angeles Tuberculosis Association was operating a total of 22 TB clinics as well as the first 100 bed tuberculosis sanitarium at Olive View. During this decade a long series of lectures were held in Spanish at the Plaza Community Center, marking the first of our efforts to provide educational materials and programs to the Hispanic community.
1930's - 40's In 1933, we were the driving force behind an extensive program of TB skin testing and chest x-rays in the public schools. Finally, our efforts paid off: the decade of the 30s saw a significant decline in the TB death rate. Through the 1940s, the Association saw little growth, largely because public attention and efforts were so absorbed by World War II. The number of defense workers in Los Angeles soared during the war years, however, and the mobile X-ray unit was kept busy. In 1944 alone, 91 plants were visited and some 21,000 persons were X-rayed. Post-war activity saw the creation of a committee within the organization to control venereal disease by increasing public awareness and education for health professionals.
1950's In 1952, Isoniazid (INH), a drug for the treatment of tuberculosis, was discovered and its use soon became widely used, bringing the "white plague" under control. We responded to this positive development not by contracting our efforts, but instead by broadening our goals to include the fight against other important lung diseases: asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
1960's Now known in 1968 as the Tuberculosis & Respiratory Disease Association of Los Angeles County, we witnessed a dramatic downturn in active TB cases: only 18 out of every 100,000 people compared with 288 in 1908. The Association took an increased interest in the relationship between air pollution and respiratory disease and by the end of the 60s the fight against smog had become a major effort. In this period, the measuring of air pollution began.
In 1965, our new medical research project, the first of its kind in the nation, was launched at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Called the Children's Pulmonary Disease and Teaching Registry, it served as a resource tool for information on children with breathing problems. The "Breathmobile," a 40-foot mobile laboratory containing pulmonary testing equipment, chest X-ray machines and a reception area went on a roll starting in 1967, bringing lung health awareness and education to every neighborhood in the county. Recognizing the strong correlation between tobacco use and lung disease, we joined with other health agencies throughout this decade in mounting a strong anti-smoking campaign on TV and radio.
1970's In order to more accurately reflect the wider goal of prevention and control of lung disease in general, we changed our name once again to the Lung Association of Los Angeles County. Throughout this decade we continued to sponsor extensive research on the effect of air pollution on respiratory health. In 1975, two hundred children with asthma took part in the very first Asthma Camp. As they continue to do today, these children journeyed into the great outdoors where they swam, hiked and worked in arts and crafts while learning specific coping skills they need everyday to deal with their asthma. In 1979 we made a final name change to our current designation: the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County (ALALAC). Towards the end of this decade, however, the ugly beast known as TB raised its head again: a sharp increase in the number of cases in Los Angeles County made tuberculosis a priority concern once again.
1980's During the early 1980's, due primarily to the outbreak of AIDS, cases of tuberculosis and AIDS-related lung disease continued to grow in number. We quickly stepped up our TB education efforts and skin-testing programs and within five years watched the TB case numbers falling back to the lower levels of years before.
Anti-smoking and clean-air initiatives also remained high on our agenda. In 1988 Proposition 99, a state-wide measure proposing to add an extra twenty-five cent tax to tobacco products sold was put on the ballot. The Association vehemently supported this plan and excitedly witnessed California voters pass the measure. Called "the most ambitious and innovative campaign of its kind in the world," Prop 99 and the people of California have changed the way Americans view the tobacco industry and tobacco use.
1990's Funded by the Tobacco Tax Health Protection Act of 1988 (Proposition 99), the Association founded the Kick Butts Youth Advocacy Program in 1997. Still one of our most popular programs, Kick Butts gives middle and high school students the tools necessary to become anti-smoking advocates in their communities and schools and empowers teens to fight the tobacco industry's influence.
We also strongly supported the 1995 California Smokefree Workplace Act: the public health measure designed to protect all employees from exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces. Two years later, the law was extended to all bars and restaurants, providing healthy environments for restaurant workers and diners alike.
Medical outreach into the diverse communities of Los Angeles County was expanded in this decade as well. Unfortunately, pediatric asthma rates also mysteriously increased nationwide, placing great emphasis on asthma education and clean air advocacy. We stepped up our pediatric asthma efforts with the Open Airways for Schools® and Huff and Puff" programs.
2000 We look forward to facing many health challenges in the new century. Our highly successful anti-smoking campaigns and programs are frequently cited as models of their kind and our lung disease support groups help many each and every day.
As it was back in 1903, fighting against all pulmonary and respiratory diseases and better lung health education for everyone is our uppermost consideration. Widespread and improved pediatric asthma programs will ensure a better future for our children. With effective lobbying and assistance from our growing legions of clean air advocacy volunteers, outdoor and indoor environmental health will continue to improve for everyone living in Los Angeles County - today and tomorrow.