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News on health, wellness and health care

UCSF Fresno

For years, local medical and political leaders have been calling for a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley. Now the long-running UCSF Fresno graduate medical education program is getting a boost towards that goal. The university has announced that it is upgrading the Fresno program’s status to that of an official branch campus of UCSF. As Dean Michael Peterson told Valley Public Radio, the move is an evolution of the San Joaquin Valley PRIME medical education program, which had been run by UCSF, UC Davis and UC Merced.

UC Merced

There’s new research out from scientists at UC Merced that could shed new light on the roots of autoimmune diseases, and also holds promise for future cancer treatments. The study in The Journal of Immunology looks at so-called “misbehaving” killer immune cells. It builds upon research that took place in the late 1990’s but went largely overlooked since then. We spoke with UC Merced graduate student Kristen Valentine and UC Merced Professor Katrina Hoyer.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

Buried in California’s new $201 billion budget is important news for those with a disease that affects many here in Central California: $8 million in funding for valley fever research and awareness. For several years we’ve been reporting about this airborne fungal disease which is endemic to arid regions of the U.S. Southwest.  To learn more about what the new funding means and where it's going, and to get an update on the latest data on infections in 2018, we spoke to Valley Public Radio's Kerry Klein on Valley Edition. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When buying a house, everyone’s motivation is different—maybe it’s the desire to start a family, or to start a new job in a new city. Today, we report on a people who move out of the Valley for an entirely different reason—one that’s related to the Valley’s ozone concentrations, which have been creeping higher as the temperature has risen.

Judy Eymann-Taylor is packing. She picks up a gold picture frame leaning against a wall and gingerly cushions it in bubble wrap. “This is a photo that's almost 40 years old now,” she says.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Brown signed the final budget of his tenure as governor on Wednesday, and included in it was funding aimed at combating the fungal disease valley fever.

The budget includes $8 million for research and outreach into the fungal disease that’s caused by inhaling spores that grow in arid soil.

New research into autisim is revealing insights into early childhood development, and a growth spurt some suggest could be linked to autisim in young boys. That's the takeaway from a new study profiled in the news publication Spectrum, by former Fresno Bee reporter Hannah Furfaro.

Recent state data that had raised the alarm on opioid overdose deaths turns out to have been inaccurate. 

In late May, new data from the California Department of Public Health had pointed to an alarming trend: The number of Californians who died of overdoses due to the street drug fentanyl had tripled between 2016 and 2017. We reported on the problem here, as did other news outlets.

Garry Knight / Creative Commons Flickr

California’s population is projected to age rapidly in the coming decades. By the year 2030, adults over 65 will outnumber children under 18, according to data from the state’s department of finance. Today, seniors over 65 make up 14 percent of the population, but that number will increase to 23 percent over the next 11 years. And as the population ages, issues like elder abuse are becoming more common.

Flickr user Derek Dirks, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

After it was first reported in March, the recent E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce appears to be drawing to a close. But that’s only after it sickened 172 people in 32 states and resulted in one death in California. Why did it take so long to get under control? One reason is that produce can be difficult to trace from farm to fork, through the sometimes dozens of suppliers, distributors and wholesalers that make up the produce supply chain—but two recent initiatives are attempting to change that.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Correction as of June 15, 2018: The California Department of Public Health has announced that it initially overestimated the state’s overdose deaths due to fentanyl by a factor of two. While we originally reported 750 fentanyl-related overdose deaths statewide, the corrected total is 373 – an increase of 56 percent over the year before, not 300 percent. Likewise, Kern County reported 10 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2017, not 20.

If you’re a regular Valley Public Radio listener, you probably already know that your health depends a lot on where you live. But just 10 years ago, that field of research was still emerging.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

A year ago, two universities were vying to open the first medical school in the San Joaquin Valley. On Wednesday, one took a big step forward—while the other fizzled. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley’s newest university is expanding: On Wednesday, groundbreaking ceremony for a new campus of California Health Sciences University.

The 90-acre plot of land between Highway 168, Temperance and Alluvial Avenues in Clovis is part of the university’s plan to operate a family of schools of medicine and health. The School of Pharmacy’s inaugural class will graduate later this month.

Coalinga Regional Medical Center website

A long-standing Fresno County hospital is closing. Coalinga Regional Medical Center announced Tuesday it will shut its doors within six weeks.

The hospital’s facilities are set to close by June 15. CEO Wayne Allen came on only three weeks ago, shortly before S&P Global Ratings put the hospital on CreditWatch due to the deterioration of its financial situation.

Allen was hired to turn the hospital’s finances around but he says he was too late. "What’s happening is the business is financially broke; insolvent," Allen says. "And we had to go into a closure mode."

Lance Johnson / Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user LanceJohnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancejohnson/5703722259/

A medical school at UC Merced has been on the table since before the university was even built. Now, the University of California and a local legislator are renewing their efforts to make it happen.

A report published this week by the University of California Office of the President estimates a medical school at UC Merced would cost $150 million in up-front costs alone. That doesn’t include the roughly $30 million dollars needed annually to run it.

Office of Asm. Rudy Salas

Two bills that could improve valley fever research made it one step closer to law on Thursday, passing out of the California Assembly and into the state Senate. 

The bills aim to streamline the state’s inconsistent reporting guidelines for valley fever, a fungal disease caused by inhaling spores that grow in arid soil. Reporting requirements for the disease vary by county, making it difficult to tally and study the disease burden across the state. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The American Lung Association has released its annual State of the Air report chronicling air pollution throughout the country - and Valley cities still receive failing grades, despite some improvements.

The report ranks pollution levels for the years 2014-2016. Thanks to the Clean Air Act and lower vehicle emissions, particle pollution overall has dropped. Most cities, including those in the San Joaquin Valley, saw fewer days of unhealthy particle pollution compared to previous years.

MIT Press

Hunger is a big problem across America but especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the local groups taking on the issue is FoodLink of Tulare County. The Exeter-based organization is dedicated to bridging the gap between between health and anti-hunger relief efforts.

Kern Medical / Kern County

The San Joaquin Valley will soon have fewer training opportunities for doctors; one of Kern Medical’s residency programs is losing its accreditation.

Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd says he doesn’t yet know why the hospital’s residency program in surgery will need to shut down.

"We’re very disappointed by this," Judd says. "Of course once we receive the findings we will do what is necessary to rectify those findings and reopen the program."

Community Medical Centers

Fresno area hospitals are about to get bigger with an expansion planned for Clovis Community Medical Center.

Next month, the hospital will begin construction on 190,000 square feet of new space. It’ll almost double the hospital’s inpatient capacity with 144 new beds—all in private rooms—and it’ll expand the emergency room, pharmacy and labs.

Community Medical Centers CEO Tim Joslin says it’s all in response to the area’s growing medical needs.

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