Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Governor Brown’s latest budget proposal has some new language related to clean drinking water.

 

The proposal acknowledges that many of California’s disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain safe drinking water systems, but it stops short of any additional funding to fix the problem.

Jonathan Nelson with the advocacy group Community Water Center says this acknowledgement may seem modest now, but it could lead to bigger things.

Ask Emily: New Rules to Limit Medi-Cal 'Death Fees'

Jan 5, 2017
California Healthline

Six months after her mother died in 2014, Karen Craig opened her mailbox to find a bill for $9,530.06.

It came from Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for low-income people, which was seeking repayment for her mother’s medical care even though she had used her coverage just once, for a routine wellness exam. (Her mother’s medical costs were primarily covered by Medicare, the federal program for seniors, Craig says.)

“I was just shocked and panicked,” says Craig, a Central Coast resident.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As communities across the southwest struggle to prevent valley fever, a sometimes-debilitating fungal disease, one community appears to have made progress: California state prisons, where inmates are at a significantly lower risk of valley fever than they used to be. Here, we explore why—starting with one man who wasn’t so lucky.

Richard Nuwintore was barely three weeks into his sentence at Taft Correctional Institution when he began to cough and experience chest pain. Within a few days, it was obvious something was wrong.

Federal Funding Fuels New Valley Fever Research

Dec 11, 2016

For seven years, Dr. George Thompson at the University of California, Davis, collected DNA samples from patients for research into valley fever.

He sought funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of primary biomedical research in the U.S., but could not secure any money to pursue his inquiry: Do genes protect some people from getting sick after inhaling the fungus that causes valley fever?

Valley Public Radio

The rural Kings County community of Kettleman City, long plagued by unsafe drinking water, now has a clear path toward a clean water supply.

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved the construction of a water treatment plant to serve Kettleman City. The unincorporated community’s water supply contains unsafe levels of arsenic. Maricela Mares-Alatorre is a Kettleman City resident and activist, and she says residents are ready.

Accurate Valley Fever Counts Elude Health Officials

Nov 28, 2016
Casey Christie / The Bakersfield Californian

Estimates of the number of valley fever cases recorded by local, state and federal agencies vary so widely that they call into question the accuracy of the figures released to the public, a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative investigation has found.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The fungal disease can afflict individuals of any age and ethnic group—even those who have lived and worked in the valley for decades. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we travel to the annual Valley Fever Walk in Bakersfield, where a 54-year-old Kern County man shares his story of overcoming the disease.  

CDC Technology Advances Promise Better Valley Fever Detection

Nov 21, 2016
THE CENTER FOR HEALTH JOURNALISM COLLABORATIVE

New technology could reveal the microscopic, sometimes deadly spores that cause valley fever that currently float in the air undetected.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is developing  a sensor that can detect levels of the cocci fungus in the air and soil, said Christopher Braden, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging Zoonotic Infectious Diseases branch. The agency has been working on the technology for three years, and Braden is hopeful the sensors could be moved into wider use over the next few years.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

We continue our reporting this week on the fungal disease known as valley fever with a story about a potential route to prevention. One of the first lines of defense against any disease is determining who’s at risk. It’s possible to develop immunity to valley fever, and a new skin test could be used to screen for that immunity—but that’s only if the test overcomes some major hurdles.

VINOTHCHANDAR VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Health organizations in Fresno County today announced a new initiative to reduce premature births. 

Right now, 11.1 percent of births in the county occur earlier than 37 weeks—that‘s far more than the state average of 8.3 percent. The new initiative, a collaboration between Fresno State, UC San Francisco, Fresno County and other groups and agencies, endeavors to reduce that to only 7 percent by the year 2025.

Sandra Flores of Fresno State is the director of the initiative.

Courtesy KABC Los Angeles / Center For Health Journalism Collaborative

Valley fever has long been a major health concern for people who live in the San Joaquin Valley. A fungus that grows in the soil can become airborne. If inhaled it can cause serious health issues, even death in some cases, though most people who contract the disease have a mild case, and they don’t even know they’ve had it. Now cases of the disease are up significantly in Kern County and some say it is connected to California's weather patterns.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Finding the perfect doctor can be a feat for anyone, but for LGBT people in rural places finding an understanding physician can sort of feel impossible. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports some say visiting a doctor's office is so intimidating that often they go without care.  

In 2014 Visalia pediatrician Kathryn Hall got fed up. She sees her practice as welcoming to LGBT people, but she felt that conservative values and homophobia in Tulare County have kept many from receiving proper healthcare.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

If you look at the nutrition label on a loaf of bread, you may come across folic acid or folate. It’s a vitamin that, in pregnant women, has been shown to reduce debilitating and sometimes fatal birth defects. For decades, folic acid has been added to some foods, but not others. Now, a new FDA decision to expand those foods could bring the vitamin to more people in the San Joaquin Valley.

Forecasting An Epidemic: Does Weather Hold The Key To Predicting Valley Fever Outbreaks?

Nov 13, 2016
Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee

When a punishing drought besieged California in the late 1980s, relief came with 30 days of rain in 1991 — dubbed the March Miracle because of how it revived the state’s agricultural economy.

Those significant swings in the weather may have had another consequence, though. The next year, Kern County health officials counted more cases of valley fever than ever before, with roughly 3,342 diagnoses and 25 deaths. By contrast, a decade earlier in 1982, fewer than 200 people were diagnosed with the disease and seven died.

coveredca.gov

November marks the start of Covered California’s insurance open enrollment. 2016 will be the fourth year that residents in the Central Valley can shop online for private, federally-subsidized health insurance.

Valley Public Radio spoke with Executive Director Peter about changes going on in the exchange that both people with insurance and the uninsured need to be aware of.

First, Lee says it all begins with knowing if you are eligible to sign up or change your current plan:

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