Monthly Archives: January 2012

If We Build It, Will People Be More Healthy?

(Image: from "Designing Health Communities")

(Image: from "Designing Health Communities")

It’s called the “built environment” and if you’re a public health whiz, you know exactly what that means. If you don’t, Dr. Richard Jackson, Chair of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department believes it’s critical you do.

“By the built environment,” he explains, “we mean everything around us that was changed by human activity, homes, building, streets that we’re surrounded by.” In other words, it’s where we live our lives, work, or go to school. When the car came along, the built environment seemed to build up on its own without any thought to health impacts. “We’ve made it hard to walk,” he says. “We’ve engineered physical activity out of our daily lives.” Continue reading

Quick Read: “Dementia Reality Tour”

Via a multi-sensory experience, loved ones and caregivers grasp what life is like for those struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

Sirens, children’s squeals and muttering voices fill the air. Flustered, Dave Legnosky fumbles to find and don a shirt. But his hands fail him, and the fabric edges escape his grasp as he struggles to remember his to-do list for the day.

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HIV Prevention Drug to be Considered by FDA

By Bernice Yeung, California Watch

The antiretroviral drug Truvada. (Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

The antiretroviral drug Truvada. (Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

Foster City drugmaker Gilead recently updated its application with the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval to market its HIV treatment medication Truvada as a HIV prevention pill.

If the FDA approves Truvada for preventive use, it “would be the first agent indicated for uninfected individuals to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through sex,” according to a company statement at the time of the filing last month.

Gilead’s application, however, has sparked debate among public health advocates who argue that the wide availability of the drug would discourage safe sex and would, in fact, increase the incidence of HIV. Continue reading

Parenting the Child with Autism

Eric and Cindy Everson on vacation with their sons. (Photo: Everson Family)

Eric and Cindy Everson on vacation with their sons. (Photo: Everson Family)

The emotions of new parents can run the gamut. They’re in uncharted water. Even people who have spent a great deal of time around children will likely tell you that having their own is a new experience. For Eric and Cindy Everson, it was no different. They had been around children, but when they had their son, Shane, the world changed. “We were new parents,” Eric says, “we didn’t know what to expect.”

Still, they did recognize when Shane started missing milestones. He was late to crawl. Then he was late walking and they had him evaluated. When Shane started walking shortly after the evaluation, Eric and Cindy hoped all was well. But they were seeing other issues as well. Shane was not not babbling or making any noises, a key marker for learning language. He was not responding when his parents called his name. Finally the formal diagnosis came. Shane had autism, a neurodevelopment disorder. The communication problems their son had, repetitive behavior they had seen, problems with social interaction, these are all hallmarks of autism. Continue reading

Work-Life Balance: Tips and Empathy

By Rachel Dornhelm

Karen Witham reads to her children, giving her husband a chance to recharge.

Karen Witham reads to her children, giving her husband a chance to recharge.

A friend once told me conspiratorially that there is no such thing as work-life balance. “It’s more like a work-life see-saw,” she said. “If one thing is up, the other is down.”

I talked to many parents about their efforts to integrate their work and family lives for this story that ran on KQED’s The California Report. Despite the incredible variation, one theme emerged. Often, the details of peoples’ stories – working full-time, part-time, odd hours, being a single parent – made people feel like their situation was so specific they were reinventing it all. The isolation makes it worse.

Some families are trying to change this. The Witham-Price family I profiled in my story set a goal of actively seeking out community and took action by joining a cooperative preschool and a Unitarian Universalist church. Continue reading

Without Individual Mandate, Fewer Californians with Health Insurance

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(s_falkow: Flickr)

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of several aspects of health care reform, including the “individual mandate,” the requirement that all Americans have health insurance.

In a new study, [PDF] researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and UC Berkeley crunched the numbers and determined that without the individual mandate, more than one million Californians would put off buying health insurance.

The individual mandate is part of The Affordable Care Act, set to roll out in 2014. The mandate requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty up to $2085 per household. Continue reading

No Whooping Cough Deaths Last Year in California

Pharmacist administers whooping cough vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Pharmacist administers whooping cough vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

You know public health is working when nothing bad happens. Last year, for the first time in 20 years, California had no deaths from whooping cough, a highly contagious illness also called pertussis.

The California Department of Public Health credits a statewide vaccination effort which followed a 2010 outbreak when 9,000 Californians were diagnosed and nine infants died. In 2011, in addition to no deaths, the number of cases of the illness dropped to 3,000.

As the Los Angeles Times reports: Continue reading

State of the Union: The President on Health Care

From Kaiser Health News: In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama made just one explicit mention of the 2010 health law. Here is a transcript of the few parts of his speech that mentioned health care issues:

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. …

I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men. … Continue reading

Common Chemical May Affect Children’s Immune Systems

Pizza boxes are often coated with PFCs to repel water or grease. (Eddie Welker: Flickr)

Pizza boxes are one consumer product often coated with PFCs to repel water and grease. (Eddie Welker: Flickr)

Perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, have been used for decades. This class of chemicals has both industrial and consumer uses, including in fast food wrappers, pizza boxes and stain-resistant clothing. In a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at children and found that higher levels of PFCs were associated with lower antibody response to routine immunizations, including diphtheria and tetanus.

PFCs are so ubiquitous … “you can find them in polar bears.”
Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health led the team that looked at more than 600 children. Researchers looked at how children responded to vaccines, because the antibodies produced in response to vaccination can be easily measured and are a marker for immune system function. Researchers also quantified PFC levels. “What we saw was that the children did not quite react the way we wanted them to to the vaccines,” he said in an interview. “The higher the exposure to the PFCs, the lower the antibody reaction in the blood.” Continue reading

Jon Stewart, Health Policy Wonk

Jon Stewart showed off his health policy chops last night when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dropped by “The Daily Show.” In an in-depth interview, Stewart queried Sebelius about the Affordable Care Act … and, yes, cracked a few jokes at the same time. “Are we going to have to start exercising?”

Continue reading