A local organisation aims to educate children and adults on breathing problems.

Breath Champs is providing solutions and management techniques for respiratory illnesses such as asthma throughout Salford.

The organisation focuses on optimising social solutions to health problems, this is done through group activities such as singing for better lung health.

Breath Champs has done extensive work with children through group choir singing, crafting model lungs, asthma orientated storytelling and lung strengthening exercises that captivate, such as blowing bubbles through straws.

Heather Henry, from Sale, founded Breath Champs in 2020 before the first lockdown. Her personal experience with asthma drives her passion for helping the community, she said: “When I was a child I had really bad asthma and it was pretty much uncontrolled and it made me a very anxious child”

She continued: “As a rare consequence, I had to have most of my right lung removed when I was 21 years old.”

As a registered nurse, Heather has a passion for helping the community, when asked about this, she said: “We need people to be together and help each other, my job is to facilitate that and make people feel confident.”

Heather Henry (right) presenting Sol Diaz (left) with a certificate to say that her Multicultural Women’s group in Sale, completed an hours breath-awareness training. Credit: Heather Henry

In an interview with Callie Treanor, Heather discussed air quality in Salford, she said: “Air pollution levels in Salford are much higher than many surrounding areas because of the roads and motorways.”

Part of the work that Breath Champs has done is informing children of how they can have a safe walk to school as they are more vulnerable to air pollution.

Heather touched on this and said: “The damage from air pollution starts pre-birth so it will affect the unborn child, some evidence suggests that air pollution can pass across from the placenta to the foetus”

She continued: “This can lead to low birth weight babies and children whose lungs are smaller are more prone to respiratory illnesses as they grow”

There has been an impact on people with respiratory conditions who have contracted COVID-19. People who already suffer with their breathing and who are also not exercising can develop respiratory deconditioning. This means there is a decline in your ability to exercise or be active.

When asked about peoples lung health after COVID-19, Heather said: “There are a small proportion of people who’ve had covid which, early evidence is saying, has led to lung scarring. We now have the newly breathless on top of the existing breathless.”

She added: “So that’s lots of issues which not only the NHS has to deal with but, I believe that communities working with my volunteers can find other ways to help like walking and singing.”

Alongside volunteers, Breath Champs partners with organisations such as Co-op Local Causes Scheme, District Lions, Rotary Club of Sale and Bluesci which supports people with mental health problems.

Breath Champs acknowledges the importance of mindfulness activities to improve mental and emotional wellbeing as how you are emotionally directly impacts your breathing. Heather and her team have recently started practising the Japanese practice called ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ which means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’

When discussing the practise, Heather said: “It’s about being mindful in nature and green environments are very good for our mental health. Me and 10 others are doing a diploma in forest bathing so we can take groups or people in to the green spaces in Trafford.”

She said: “People need to be around others, as we’ve learnt from the pandemic, that’s the number one thing which will make us well, to be with others.”

Breath Champs facilitates an array of activities in the community such as mini walks for the breathless in Woodheys Park and singing for lung health courses, currently at Coppice Library in Sale. Please contact Heather Henry here to sign up or volunteer for this cause.

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