Berkeley Recruits ‘Panel of Experts’ for Soda Tax Implementation

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, voters in Berkeley made the city the first in the country to pass a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. On Monday, the city moved forward on implementing one of the  requirements of the measure, staffing its “panel of experts.”

Berkeley is soliciting applications for people to serve on this panel, which will advise the City Council on “how and to what extent the City should establish and/or fund programs to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley.”

In other words, the panel will advise the council on how to spend the soda tax revenue. Continue reading

Video: San Francisco Homeless Veterans Get Permanent Place to Live

By Katie Brigham

At 58 years old, Clarence Cook finally has a place of his own to call home.

Living on the streets of San Francisco since 1997, the Army veteran has been in and out of jail for more than three decades while battling a heroin addiction.

Today, Cook has been clean for six months. Earlier this month, he become one of the first 30 residents to move into 250 Kearny — a single-room-occupancy property on the edge of San Francisco’s Financial District that has been newly renovated to house 130 homeless veterans. Continue reading

Looking Ahead — and Back — at Obamacare in California

The second year of open enrollment for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, is underway. Scott Shafer of KQED’s Newsroom, spoke with State of Health editor Lisa Aliferis about how enrollment is going this year, including an upcoming Supreme Court challenge. They also looked back at the historic rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

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Video: Meet 72-Year-Old Rollerblader Frank Hernandez


Editor’s note: For seniors, exercise is an important way to prevent injury and retain independence. But it can be difficult to come up with a routine that works for you. Frank Hernandez of the Central Valley town of Delano solved that problem by turning to rollerblading. He’s now 72 and shows no sign of stopping. We visited the skatepark with Hernandez as part of our community health series Vital Signs.

By Frank Hernandez

When I first started I would rollerblade the skate paths, then I said, “I need more than this.”

I used to look at the X-Games, and I saw the rollerbladers back then in the 90’s, and I said, “Oh, I’m going to do that someday.” Continue reading

See What Happens After You Get A Mammogram

(Courtesy: JAMA)

(Courtesy: JAMA)

By Nancy Shute, NPR

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn’t help that there’s been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women. Continue reading

Whooping Cough Infections Unusually High Among Latino Babies

Babies get their first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months. (Kenneth Pornillos/World Bank via Flickr)

Babies get their first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months. (Kenneth Pornillos/World Bank via Flickr)

By April Dembosky

Public health officials are trying to understand why Latino babies are contracting whooping cough at much higher rates than other babies.

California is battling the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years. Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and babies are especially prone to hospitalization or even death.

Six out of 10 infants who have become ill during the current outbreak are Latino. Evidence explaining this is inconclusive, but experts have a few theories that range from a lack of Spanish language outreach to Latino cultural practices. Continue reading

Schools Are at the Front Line of Asthma Fight

Shameka Bibb gives her son Sarquan Holland Jr., age 5, his asthma inhaler at school before she leaves him for the day. Hollands asthma is so severe that he has been on Prednisone since he was three and is on the strongest dose of inhaler, not usually given to children. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Shameka Bibb gives her son Sarquan Holland, Jr., age 5, his asthma inhaler at school before she leaves him for the day. Holland’s asthma is so severe that he has been on prednisone since he was three and is on the strongest dose of inhaler, not usually given to children. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

California’s network of 230 school-based health clinics are set to incubate a new education program meant to address the environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $600,000 grant to the Oakland-based Public Health Institute’s Regional Asthma Management & Prevention (RAMP) program. RAMP is now set to design a training program for the state’s school-based clinic staff on how to prevent and manage environmental asthma triggers in school, at home and in the community.

Asthma affects 900,000 children in California and seven million children nationwide. The disease causes airways in the lungs to swell and narrow. This makes breathing difficult. Oakland’s network of school-based clinics have been on the forefront of providing asthma education and treatment to its school-aged children, but will now have an added resource to address the environmental risk factors.

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Covered California Sign Ups Continue at Strong Pace

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Just over 144,000 new people signed up for health insurance on the Covered California marketplace during the first month of open enrollment, officials said Wednesday.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, noted that the state is now one-third of the way through open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15. At the same point last year, 110,000 people had picked a plan.

Lee said enrollment was going “remarkably smoothly” so far, although there have been “some small glitches along the way.”

Covered California is targeting 1.7 million enrollees for 2015, including renewing 1.2 million current customers and netting half a million new people. Continue reading

Study: Western States Eliminate Race Gap on Key Health Measures

Researchers looked at how effectively patients had their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol controlled. (Getty Images)

Researchers looked at how effectively patients had their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol controlled. (Getty Images)

A major new study looking at health disparities across the U.S. finds that significant gaps in managing heart disease and diabetes persist — except in Western states, where the gap has been eliminated.

‘It’s possible to eliminate deeply ingrained racial disparities.’
Researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University looked at 100,000 Medicare patients who were enrolled in HMOs, called “Medicare Advantage” plans, from 2006 to 2011. While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved overall, blacks “substantially” trailed whites everywhere except the Western U.S., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

“We were certainly hoping we would see indications of progress in eliminating disparities in the country as a whole,” said lead author Dr. John Ayanian, who heads the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan. He said that while it was “disappointing” that disparities persisted, “it’s also heartening to see that … in the West, the disparities had been eliminated, and that was both surprising and encouraging.” Continue reading

Despite New Federal Rules, California Likely to Stay with Healthy School Lunches

Elementary students at a northern California school at the fruit and salad bar. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Elementary students at a northern California school at the fruit and salad bar. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

California’s enthusiasm for healthy school lunches appears unlikely to change under a Congressional budget bill headed to President Barack Obama for signature that would allow states to weaken new federal school nutrition requirements.

The changes to the regulations for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – part of a $1.1 trillion budget agreement passed on Saturday – are the latest in a heated conflict over the new National School Lunch Program menus, which call for increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and reductions in fats and sodium.

The bill would exempt some schools from the requirement that they serve only breads and pastas that are “whole grain rich,” meaning they are at least 50 percent whole grain. To receive an exemption, schools must show evidence of “hardship, including financial hardship” in obtaining 50 percent whole grain foods that are “acceptable to students.” The bill also would keep sodium restrictions at current levels until “the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.” The language referring to the exemptions begins on page 99 of the lengthy spending bill. Continue reading