The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)
By Chris Richard
Tests of homes and schools near a battery recycling plant east of Los Angeles have detected elevated lead levels, prompting state officials Monday to caution the public against exposure and to order expanded testing.
Both neighborhoods surveyed exceeded the state’s “health screening level” for lead of 80 parts per million. One home topped 580 parts per million, according to a testing report.
Residents are cautioned to keep children away from bare soil and to wash hands thoroughly.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has given Exide Technologies until March 21 to develop a plan for additional testing of the 39 homes and two schools included in the original study, as well as a wider area.
This announcement follows testing last month in Boyle Heights and Maywood, just east of downtown Los Angeles. It marks the DTSC’s first discovery of widespread ground contamination in residential areas near Exide’s plant in Vernon. Continue reading
Study shows that plenty of parents can’t put the phone down even when eating with their kids. (Getty Images)
By Brittany Patterson
We know Americans’ use of mobile gadgets has reached near ubiquitous status in our daily lives. Research shows our continued use has health effects on our skeletons, is changing they way we communicate, and even making walking less safe.
“My concern is that it’s becoming such an obsessive habit that we’re missing interaction with our kids.”
But a new study published Monday in Pediatrics quantifies for the first time yet another side effect of our technological obsession: Many of us are engrossed with our devices even when eating with our children.
Researchers anonymously watched 55 caregivers eating with one or more young children in fast food restaurants across different Boston neighborhoods and took copious notes. (They couldn’t call the caregivers “parents” because they were watching surreptitiously.) Researchers watched how often and for how long caregivers used devices during the meal — and if the children tried to get the caregiver’s attention. Their notes were independently analyzed and coded to identify common themes.
Dr. Jenny Radesky led the team of researchers, from Boston Medical Center. Continue reading
Protestors carry signs against proposed Medi-Cal cuts outside San Francisco City Hall in 2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
By David Gorn, California Healthline
The irony of the situation was not lost on Linda Trowbridge, CEO of the Center for Elders’ Independence in Oakland.
At an Assembly hearing in Sacramento last week, Trowbridge said funding for California’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly — or PACE — has been systematically cut over the past six years and yet it is often cited as the model of care the state would like to pursue.
“Adult day health care is essentially skilled nursing care in a community setting, and this Medi-Cal rate reduction threatens our whole industry.”
The federally subsidized program is aimed at providing and coordinating care to allow seniors and people with disabilities to remain living at home.
“Everybody who is in this program would otherwise be in a skilled nursing facility,” Trowbridge said. The program saves the state money, she said, pointing to estimates that PACE centers cost 11 percent of what it would cost to have people go to nursing facilities. Ironically, the PACE program is one of the state’s models for its Coordinated Care Initiative for dual eligibles, Trowbridge said. Continue reading
Natasha Smith, 37, plays with her children at her grandfather’s home in Huntington Beach. A unique program allowed Smith to live with her two youngest children while she served a four-year prison sentence. (Susan Valot/KQED)
Editor’s Note: In the past three years, more than 250 California inmates gave birth. Natasha Smith had her youngest daughter, Lydia, while at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The mother of four was serving time for drug possession and grand theft. This month, as part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we’re bringing you personal stories of health care behind bars. Smith talks about reuniting with her baby — seven years ago — in a program that lets mothers serve their time outside of prison. There were once several such programs in the state. Now, only one Southern California facility remains. Reporter: Susan Valot
By Natasha Smith
I had a normal delivery, a vaginal delivery, so I got 48 hours. And then at the end of the 48 hours, I had to either arrange for someone to come pick up my child or she would go into the [foster care] system. So, I actually had Lydia’s father’s mother come and pick up the baby. And I didn’t really know her. It was very emotional handing over your baby to somebody you never even met.
You just kind of shut yourself down because it’s too hard to deal with: “Where’s my baby?” You just had a baby and your breasts are leaking. I mean, you’re lactating and everything else but there’s no baby. Continue reading
Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)
The Obama administration released standards for plans for 2015 on Wednesday and one of the tweaks might end up helping scores of families to sign up for health insurance. What’s not clear is whether the changes will apply to California.
Originally, open enrollment for 2015 was set to run this fall, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Then the administration moved it from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15 in a move that was widely regarded as politically motivated — to help shift the bulk of open enrollment (and its likely problems) to conclude after the mid-term elections had wrapped up.
In its announcement Wednesday, the administration changed open enrollment again. It will now run Nov. 15 to Feb.15, at least for those in states using healthcare.gov. More on Covered California in a moment. Continue reading
California’s kids are overexposed to ads for alcohol, tobacco and junk food. That’s according to a new survey from public health departments throughout the state. They sent hundreds of teens and young adults to thousands of corner stores throughout the state to record what kinds of products and advertising they find.
Twenty-two year old Luisa Sicairos saw shelves lined with products like marshmallow-flavored vodka, fried chips, and plenty of sugary drinks in her neighborhood in San Francisco. She says the young, slim models that appear in ads next to these products and on the labels send a mixed message.
“It’s still bombarding us with all this stuff on how we should look, and then they’re saying, oh, but you should be drinking soda,” she says. Continue reading
The single-story housing units at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton provide wheelchair access, around-the-clock care for inmates. (Julie Small/KQED)
By Julie Small
California prison officials are hoping to resume transfers of sick inmates to a new, state-of-the-art medical facility in Stockton later this month. While not licensed as a hospital, the prison medical facility provides high-level, round-the-clock care to inmates with the most complex medical conditions.
The federal overseer of inmate health care halted admissions at the prison in late January, citing unsanitary conditions and shortages of staff and supplies that have persisted for months.
The state spent $839 million to build the California Health Care Facility located at the southern edge of Stockton. The single-story housing was designed with rooms and doorways large enough to fit gurneys, wheelchairs, and medical equipment to care for 1,700 inmates with complex medical conditions. But shortly after the facility opened in July 2013, staff and inmates reported problems getting essential medical and personal hygiene supplies. Continue reading
The red dots mark a school or child care facility where the vaccine opt-out rate is above 9.9 percent. The statewide average is 3 percent. (Contra Costa Health Department)
In response to the troubling number of children whose parents opt out of vaccines for them, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has published an interactive online map of vaccine rates for schools and licensed child-care facilities with at least 15 children at each site across the county.
“There’s not much wiggle room. We need about 90 percent of our community to be immune.”
The screen shot above shows the map. When you visit the site you can click on any of the dots, and a box appears to show you the name of the school, its address and rate of “personal belief exemptions.” While state law requires that every child be fully vaccinated to enter kindergarten, parents can opt out by filing a personal belief exemption (PBE), a signed statement that vaccines are against a parent’s beliefs.
Paul Leung, immunization program manager for Contra Costa Public Health, said the goal of producing the map was to increases awareness. “Many community members may not realize this dangerous, disturbing trend of parents choosing to skip vaccines for their children,” he said. “It not only puts these kids at greater risk of serious, dangerous diseases like measles and polio,” but it also puts others at risk, he said, including those who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies, and children or adults too sick to be vaccinated. Continue reading
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
In an effort to reduce California’s backlog of health and safety complaints at nursing homes, Los Angeles County public health officials told its inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them, according to internal documents and interviews.
The effort known as the “Complaint Workload Clean Up Project” has been going on since at least the summer of 2012, according to internal memoranda sent by email to managers and inspectors by county Department of Public Health supervisors.
Nearly one-third of the 1,286 nursing homes in the state are in L.A. County.
State and federal officials, who contract with Los Angeles County to inspect nursing homes on their behalf, said they are now investigating the matter. Contacted by a reporter, the California Department of Public Health issued a statement Sunday saying it did not approve the practice and has ordered Los Angeles County officials to “immediately discontinue” it. The county’s approach conflicts with the policies and protocols of the California Department of Public Health, spokesman Anita Gore said in the statement. Continue reading
Many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. One dose is usually not a problem, but it’s easy to lose track of how much your child is taking. An overdose can cause liver failure or death. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Scott Hensley, NPR
Concerns about drug risks have led 28 state attorneys general to ask the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its approval of Zohydro, a long-acting narcotic painkiller, before the medicine is even put on the market.
People often underestimate the risks of individual drugs and combinations of drugs for young children.
The risks for addiction and overdose from the potent opioid outweigh the benefits of pain relief, critics say. Some point to the risk for children, in particular. A single capsule of Zohydro could kill a kid, the medicine’s instructions warn.
Other opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, are already fixtures in America’s medicine cabinets. And as the prescriptions for drugs like these have surged, so have the reports of overdoses and deaths — for children and adults.
But opioids are just one kind of risky medicine. Doctors have a disturbingly long list of drugs that can lead to the death of a child after just one or two doses. Continue reading