By MAYA KOEPPEN — Last month, the Hyattsville Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee hosted the inaugural event of their “Speaker Series” at the First United Methodist Church in Hyattsville. Members from the community gathered to hear Lois Wessel, a representative for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, give a presentation on the impact of indoor air pollution on children’s health. Her talk, entitled “Clean Air, Healthy Kids,” covered information related to respiratory illnesses in children and the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as risks associated with lead and carbon monoxide.

Don Burger, the committee chair, said the topics were important because “many [citizens] are concerned with their impact on the environment and the effect of the environment, both indoor and outdoor, on their lives.”

Burger says the goal of the Speaker Series is to educate the public about health, wellness and recreation topics

“If people do not understand the problems that can be caused by exposure to different types of indoor air pollution, they cannot take steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to the potentially harmful substances that can be found in these places,” he said.

Yet, education is just the beginning, Burger explained. Ultimately, he and the rest of the committee hope that the series will lead local residents to make positive changes to their daily habits and routines.

“The greater the level of awareness to the effects of our choices, the better decisions a person can make … [the hope is] that once the community hears the messages, they will then be able to take the newfound knowledge home and begin to make meaningful changes in their lives.”=

With lower than expected attendance at the opening event, the series is off to a rocky start. Burger cites the event’s lack of advertising as a possible cause of poor turnout. To overcome this shortcoming, the committee plans to expand their advertising beyond print media by taking advantage of Hyattsville affiliated Facebook and Instagram pages. Residents can also subscribe to the city’s “Notify Me” email and text message alert system, which updates residents on local programs and events.

Kevin Ward, Ward 1 councilmember, remains optimistic about the series despite its slow start.

“The committee has seen the growing pains of starting a new program,” he said. “The events have not been very well attended, but there is buzz nonetheless.”

The Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee comprises 11 members. City staff liaisons include: Admin Support Wellness Program Coordinator Ellarose Preston and Recreation Event Coordinator Cheryl Everhart. City council liaisons include: Carrianna Suiter (Ward 3), Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) and Kevin Ward (Ward 1). According to the city’s website, the committee meets at least once a month to  “makes recommendations to City Council, develops public awareness campaigns and coordinates community engagement initiatives to encourage healthy lifestyles.”