Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A new app is making it easier for people in California to receive STD testing within the comfort of their own home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains how it works.

Android and iPhone users can now download the app called Planned Parenthood Direct. For a cost of $149, users will receive a kit in the mail that tests for both chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Linda Williams with Planned Parenthood says this app makes it easier for people to get tested without feeling judged.

A new report from Fresno State's Central Valley Health Policy Institute highlights the high incidence of infant mortality in the African-American Community. According to study data, African-American babies in Fresno are three times more likely to die when compared with white infants. Recently on Valley Edition we spoke with Lauren N. Lessard, PhD MPH, a research scientist at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute about the study, and why the numbers have grown in recent years. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A new study from the UCLA Health Policy Institute indicates that the access gap between Medi-Cal recipients and those with private, employer-sponsored coverage continues to grow. And those with Medi-Cal benefits in the Central Valley do even worse, facing even greater challenges in finding and retaining a doctor than those with the same benefits in wealthier parts of the state. 

VINOTHCHANDAR VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

  African-American infants in Fresno County are three times more likely to die within their first year than white infants, largely because of premature birth, low birth weight or birth defects.

The alarming rates of African-American infants dying in their first year in the county are prompting public health officials to dig deeper.

“Over the last few years ever since 2008 Fresno has experienced a dramatic growth in infant mortality rates particularly for African-American women,” says Dr. John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute.

Valley Fever Cases Down Since Drought Began

Jul 14, 2015
Craig Kohlruss / Just One Breath - Reporting On Health Collaborative / The Fresno Bee

California health experts are surprised that the incidence of Valley Fever has gone down during the drought. The fungal infection is commonly spread in arid, dusty conditions. But, even though the state is drier, the number of cases continues to drop. Capital Public Radio's Lesley McClurg has the story.

Valley Fever peaked in 2011 with more than 5,000 cases in California. Last year there were fewer than half that. Dr. James Watt is the Chief of the Division of Communicable Diseases for the California Department of Public Health.

California HealthCare Foundation

Medi-Cal recipients in California continue to face big challenges when it comes to actually accessing care, especially in the Central Valley. That's the conclusion of a new report by researchers at the UCLA Center For Health Policy Research and the California HealthCare Foundation. 

The study looked at survey data from across the state for both Medi-Cal enrollees and those with private insurance provided through their employers. 

Shana Alex Charles is one of the study's authors.

Flickr- Baron Valium

Officials with the Valley Air District are warning about Fourth of July fireworks worsening air quality and threatening residents' health.

Fireworks can cause damaging air pollution to spike to five times the level considered safe.

When fireworks are set off, they burn, explode and release large amounts of dangerous particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Heather Heinks with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says the tiny particles of soot, ash and metal can bury themselves deep in the body causing short and long term problems.

Audit Finds Problems With Medi-Cal System

Jun 18, 2015
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An audit of the department that oversees Medi-Cal found inaccurate health plan information, thousands of unanswered calls and a lack of oversight. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on the report out Tuesday.

The California State Auditor examined how the Department of Health Care Services is monitoring health insurance plans that accept Medi-Cal patients. Of the more than 12 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal, more than 75 percent are enrolled in a health plan.

Mercy for Animals

An animal welfare group has released what it claims is disturbing video of mistreatment of animals at a central valley slaughter house and chicken farm.

The group, Mercy for Animals, used undercover investigators to film the treatment of chickens at two Foster Farms chicken farms and a slaughterhouse in Fresno County.

What they found, says Matt Rice with Mercy for Animals, is horrific abuse of the chickens at both the farm and the slaughter house.

Ikhlasul Amal via FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

In 2010 President Barack Obama announced a new vision for HIV and AIDS where one day new infections in the country would be considered rare.

“We believe that while HIV transmission rates in this country are not as high as they once were every new case is one case too many," he says. 

California Extends Health Care To Undocumented Children

Jun 16, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Beginning next spring 170,000 undocumented kids living in California will be able to sign up for Medi-Cal. Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders allocated an initial $40 million for the program in this year’s budget.

Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara has been pushing for California to offer health care to immigrants living illegally in the state. 

Valley Children’s Hospital is officially partnering with Stanford University for its new pediatric residency program.

The decision marks a move away from a long time partnership with the University of California San Francisco.

The partnership is a big step toward starting the residency, as Stanford will provide educators and other academic support.

Hospital CEO Todd Suntrapak says having their own residency in-house gives the hospital more control over the program while also potentially increasing the number of doctors working in the Central Valley.

Ezra David Romero

After the City of Fresno rejected a proposed bus ad about the lack of parks in South Fresno last week, the controversy over the issue  has only grown. The ad from the group Building Healthy Communities cited city data that shows North Fresno residents have over four times the amount of park space per capita as those who live south of Shaw Avenue. 

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Most undocumented immigrants throughout the country aren’t eligible for Medicaid or Medi-Cal because of their immigration status. But in California there’s a little known provision that allows certain immigrants to obtain full-scope Medi-Cal benefits even if they aren’t here legally.

Until last December, if you were an undocumented resident in Fresno you could get health care through a county program known as MISP. That stopped when the county changed the rules and kicked at least 5,000 undocumented residents out of the program late last year.

Undocumented Health Care Bill Moves Forward In Legislature

May 28, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A bill that would make health care available to undocumented immigrants in California advanced in the state legislature today. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, it’s been scaled back from previous versions.

The amended bill pares back a proposal that would have extended Medi-Cal to all eligible undocumented immigrants. Now the measure would cap the number of adult enrollees based on the state budget. It does extend Medi-cal to eligible undocumented children. 

Building Healthy Communities

An ad that a local non-profit group wants to run on city buses is the center of controversy, after Fresno officials say it’s too political. As FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the group wants more parkland in older parts of town.

Valley Public Radio

The fight against valley fever may reach a new milestone. A bill in the state legislature would fund research for this disease in hopes of finding a cure. 

The bill introduced by State Senator Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, would allocate $1 million to fund research into a valley fever vaccine. Valley fever- also known as coccidioidomycosis- cases have increased dramatically over the last decade, including in the Central Valley. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 9,500 cases were reported nationwide in 2013.

Nurse Practitioner Scope Of Practice Bill Passes Senate

May 7, 2015

Nurse practitioners could care for patients and prescribe medications without a doctor’s supervision under a bill that’s passed the California Senate. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez has tried for years to allow more medical professionals to provide primary care, given a significant doctor shortage. This bill would expand what’s called the “scope of practice” of nurse practitioners.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

A California Senate Committee Monday will consider the financial feasibility of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain full health coverage. As Capital Public Radio's Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone tells us, Medi-Cal already pays for some health services.

The "Health For All Act" would allow lower-income undocumented immigrants to sign up for full Medi-Cal coverage. It would allow others to buy health insurance completely on their own.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

  Advocates say moving people to the new facility in Bakersfield is raising serious concerns about the risk of exposing immigrants to valley fever. This disease is caused by a fungus that thrives throughout the Central Valley and parts of the Southwest, sending out spores. 

Julia Mass is with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California.

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