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community health

Don’t Let Edie’s Death From Valley Fever Be In Vain, Her Sister Pleads

Sep 3, 2017
Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Initially, doctors thought Edie Preller had pneumonia, then tuberculosis, or maybe bronchitis. They quarantined her and ran tests. Six months later they discovered that she had inhaled a deadly spore from a fungus that grows throughout the region. The spore caused a disease called valley fever, which spread from her lungs into her brain.

Preller had been an in-home health care worker, taking care of other people who were ill. Then, in her 50s, she ended up in a losing battle for her own life, spending her last three years in and out of a hospital.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

For much of 2017, healthcare has dominated the headlines. But while access to insurance coverage remains a national debate, here in the San Joaquin Valley, getting to see a doctor isn’t always easy, even for people who have coverage. It’s not a new problem, and it’s not unique to the valley, but this area is especially hard hit by a lack of physicians.

Fresno State University

Leading a healthy life is about much more than being able to see a doctor or get into a hospital. It is also about access to fresh foods, and places to go to exercise like parks. That is a major struggle for  people in many communities in the San Joaquin Valley. A new report from the advocacy organization Building Health Communities and the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State says hospitals should be doing more to improve ‘neighborhood health’.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

The city of Arvin, south of Bakersfield, is struggling to stay healthy. Nearly a quarter of its 20,000 residents fall below the poverty line, and surrounding Kern County has one of the highest diabetes burdens in the state. As part of an ongoing effort to get kids out of the house and active, an event last week connected Arvin middle-schoolers with free bicycles—but where the bicycles came from may surprise you.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

It’s springtime in the valley, which, for many of us, means it’s time to clear the weeds out of our backyards. The same goes for growers, but the landscape of industrial weedkillers is changing. A California judge recently ruled that the main ingredient of the popular herbicide RoundUp must be labeled as a carcinogen. Now, another popular herbicide is facing some scrutiny over its health impacts as well.

Weeds kill crops. Kurt Hembree says that’s because they’re pernicious moochers.

Virginia Commonwealth University, The California Endowment

Last year, U.S. life expectancy fell for the first time in over 20 years. At the same time, new data from four valley counties show that the death rate has increased particularly among whites. 

Over the last 20 years, the death rates among communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley have fallen. But at the same time, white death rates have notably increased, particularly for adults aged 40-64. Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University says opioid use is only partially to blame.

Monday June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and Fresno County is offering free HIV tests throughout the week. In 2014, the county reported 94 new cases of HIV/AIDS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone 13-64 years old be tested at least once, and they encourage mothers to be tested with each pregnancy. The CDC also recommends annual testing for those who inject drugs, have an STD, or have more than one sexual partner.

Free rapid HIV tests will be available at the Fresno County Health Department until Thursday, June 30. 

FM89's series My Valley, My Story features first person stories from people throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This week KVPR's Diana Aguilera visits London, an unincorporated town in rural  Tulare County with a population of nearly 2,000 people, to find out what it’s like to get sick when the nearest hospital is about 30 minutes away.