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Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Kern County Department of Public Health

New data from the California Department of Public Health show that cases of valley fever are on the rise across the state. The airborne fungal disease is also the subject of a new public awareness campaign in Kern County, featuring sheriff Donny Youngblood.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As the holidays approach, you may be contemplating the toys you’ll be getting for the children in your life or donating to kids in need. Well, this month, one woman in Visalia is holding a toy drive, but for parents—sort of. She’s working to donate toys to families affected by one of the San Joaquin Valley’s most concerning health trends.

Fresno Bee reporter Mackenzie Mays is wrapping up a nine month long reporting project on the state of sex education in local schools.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

A few weeks ago, we reported that the premature birth rate in the San Joaquin Valley is rising, and that it’s especially high in Fresno County. The numbers are concerning because premature babies are born with a higher risk of health complications like breathing difficulties, heart problems and chronic disease. Decades of work have proven preterm births are tough to prevent, but a new research initiative appears to be up for the challenge. This story begins, though, in a Fresno living room, where a mother and son enjoy some quiet time together.

For years, one of the most powerful and consistent Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is that the monthly premiums are going up so fast that they are quickly becoming unaffordable and that the whole law was on the verge of collapse.

President Donald Trump, in part, rode a wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment all the way to the White House. While Republican plans for full legislative repeal have stalled, that has not stopped the President from taking executive action to undermine it.

Kern County Announces New Awareness Campaign For Valley Fever

Nov 7, 2017
Center for Health Journalism Collaborative

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood grew up in Kern County. He hikes here, he rides horses here and he golfs here. He remembers elementary school field trips to Shark’s Tooth Hill to dig for relics here. He has done just about everything that could put him at risk for breathing in the coccidioidal fungal spore that causes valley fever, the insidious respiratory disease endemic to the area.

A relative got sick and died from the disease years ago after he was misdiagnosed. Then, a few months ago, Youngblood’s significant other got sick. Youngblood decided to get tested.

Flickr user Robert Valencia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For the second year in a row, California’s rate of premature births has increased. But according to new data, the trend is even more alarming in the San Joaquin Valley.

Across California, 8.6 percent of live births are premature, according to the health advocacy organization March of Dimes. That means they were born before 37 weeks of gestation. The group gave the state a B on its annual premature birth report card. Of the 15 counties ranked in the report card, Fresno County scored the worst, with a prematurity rate of over 10%. Both Fresno and Kern Counties earned a C.

A new ranking of patient safety at valley hospitals has been released, with mixed grades. The analysis from the nonprofit group Leapfrog, tracks errors, injuries, accidents, and infections at hospitals nationwide.

In Fresno County, Kaiser received an “A” grade, with Clovis Community and Saint Agnes earning "B’s." Community Regional Medical Center got a “C”. To the north, Madera Community Hospital received an "A" grade and Mercy Medical Center in Merced got a "B."

Tulare County Sheriff's Office

Today marks the final day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Across the United States, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, law enforcement agencies receive 15-20,000 reports of domestic violence each year.

In an effort to reduce these crimes in Tulare County, the sheriff’s office earlier this month announced a new strategy for fighting domestic violence—one they hope will aid not just in responding to reported crimes, but also in preventing future ones.

TRMC

Last week a bankruptcy court judge allowed the Tulare Local Health Care District board to part ways with HCCA, the private company that has been running the Tulare Regional Medical Center for several years. It marks an end to a relationship that had become bitter following a recall election earlier this year. It also has led to the temporary closure of the hospital, which has directed patients to nearby facilities in Porterville, Visalia and Reedley. So what's next, and when does the hospital hope to reopen?

Kerry Klein / KVPR

If you drove down Clinton Avenue in east central Fresno this morning, you may have seen a rally outside of the Fresno Department of Veterans Affairs. A few dozen veterans and VA staff chanted "when U.S. veterans are under attack, what do you do? Stand up, fight back," in protest over vacancies within the VA health system.

Veterans’ hospitals across the country are short of as many as 49,000 staff, including doctors and nurses. That’s after a 2014 law that allowed veterans to see providers outside the VA system.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Earlier this summer, a contract between CalViva health and Kaiser Permanente left 9,000 Medi-Cal patients in the San Joaquin Valley to find all new doctors. We were curious how that transition happened, so we set out to find out how significant this change was in the healthcare world and how doctors and patients experienced it.

As part of our series Struggling For Care, we invited listeners to call in with their experiences trying to find doctors in the San Joaquin Valley. Some audio clips below are directly taken (with permission) from voicemails left on our tip line, others from more in-depth conversations. All highlight the frustration, helplessness and occasionally high stakes of a region with too few medical providers.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The latest Republican health care bill may have met its end earlier this week in Congress, but there’s more health care legislation awaiting a decision by the weekend. Three federal programs providing aid to the Valley are due to expire on Saturday night.

The first is the Community Health Center Fund, which provides 70 percent of funding to some health centers in underserved and disadvantaged areas. From 2011-2016, California received $1.6 billion from the fund--the most of any state.

Saint Agnes Medical Center

Amidst a shortage of physicians in the San Joaquin Valley, local opportunities for graduate medical training are expanding.

For the first time in its 88-year history, Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno is becoming a teaching hospital with the launch of an internal medicine residency program in July 2018. It will accept 16 residents the first year and grow to 40 after three years.

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