Monthly Archives: July 2013

How TVs Hurt Kids — No, It’s Not the Programming This Time

It's easy to imagine how this baby could be hurt if the TV toppled over. (Getty Images)

It’s easy to imagine how this baby could be hurt if the TV toppled over. (Getty Images)

As a parent I fret about what TV may be doing to my kids’ minds. Now a study out Monday warns that TVs pose a risk to children’s physical health, too.

Specifically, the problem is falling televisions. If you’re wondering how it is that TVs fall over, researchers say it’s because kids climb on them. Over a 20-year period, researchers say, nearly 200,000 children in the U.S. went to the emergency room because of an injury sustained from a falling TV. More than 200 children have died from these injuries during that time.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

From the Associated Press:

Doctors and safety experts say better awareness is needed about the dangers — especially the risks of putting heavier, older model TV sets on top of dressers and other furniture young children may try to climb on.

Most injuries are in kids under 5; head and neck injuries including concussions are the most common.

“This is a problem that is increasing at an alarming rate,” said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatric emergency specialist and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance in Columbus, Ohio.

Smith said it is unclear from the data what type of TV sets are involved in the accidents or whether older, heavier models are the most common culprit. Continue reading

Mental Health Funds Well-Spent or Wasted? Prop. 63 Authors Divided

By Elaine Korry, KQED

Young people with mental health needs find help through art therapy at Daniel's Place, a drop-in center in Santa Monica. (Elaine Korry/KQED)

Young people with mental health needs find help through art therapy at Daniel’s Place, a drop-in center in Santa Monica. (Elaine Korry/KQED)

Remember Proposition 63? The voter initiative known as the Mental Health Services Act was approved in 2004. It imposed a 1 percent surtax on income over $1 million to fund services for Californians with a serious mental illness. Now, nine years later, the state auditor is about to release a long-awaited report, detailing how nearly $9 billion in taxpayer money raised by Prop. 63 has been spent. Whether that money has been spent wisely is being hotly debated, and even the bill’s co-authors are divided.

“What did they do with the money? Where has all the money gone? We would like to know,” said Rose King, one of the initiative’s original co-authors. Lawmakers requested the audit after whistle-blowers including King complained that the funds were being misused.

As written, nearly three-quarters of the money raised by Prop 63 was slated to fund services for people already diagnosed with a severe mental illness. Twenty percent was reserved for prevention and early intervention strategies. The remaining funds would go to oversight, administration, and innovations. Continue reading

How to Better Protect Farmworkers from Pesticides? Bilingual Labels

By Dan Charles, NPR

(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Advocates for farmworkers, especially those who grow America’s leafy greens and fresh vegetables, are pushing the government to do more to protect those workers from exposure to pesticides.

A 20-year-old regulation — the Worker Protection Standard — is supposed to prevent harmful pesticide exposures on the farm. But activist groups like Farmworker Justice say it falls short, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on a new version.

Pesticides carry warning labels that spell out health risks and how workers should protect themselves — but those labels are usually in English.
A new report from Farmworker Justice points out that under the current rules, farmworkers don’t get nearly as much information about hazardous chemicals they may encounter as, say, factory workers. (Industrial workers are covered by different regulations, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)

And then there’s the barrier of language. Pesticides carry warning labels that spell out health risks and how workers should protect themselves — but those labels are usually in English. More than 80 percent of the workers in the “salad bowls” of Salinas, Calif., or Yuma, Ariz., are Hispanic. Many have difficulty communicating in English. Continue reading

Advocates Demand Governor’s Attention on California Developmental Centers

By Caroline Chen, Center for Investigative Reporting

Advocates for the developmentally disabled gathered today at the state Capitol to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown focus his attention on the 1,500 men and women living in California’s troubled board-and-care facilities, described by one resident as “hellholes.”

Waving a thick stack of reports in the air, Jacquie Dillard-Foss, CEO of Strategies to Empower People, which provides services for the disabled to live independently, said cases of patient abuse and neglect at the state’s five institutions had been recorded since the early 1990s, but with little response from the government.

“We know the problem has existed for decades,” Dillard-Foss said. “We are in the midst of a human crisis.”

The event in Sacramento comes a week after the California State Auditor released a scathing report detailing the failures of the Department of Developmental Services to protect the people who reside in its institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties.

A letter from the advocates in today’s event calls on Brown to appoint an administration official to respond to the audit’s findings. Continue reading

Medi-Cal and Obamacare: Some Surprising Twists

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a regular column from Emily Bazar with the CHCF Center for Health Reporting. Bazar answers consumers’ questions about Obamacare. 

Q: If my family of six qualifies for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, do we have to sign up for that? Or can we still buy subsidized health care plans through Covered California? … I have real concerns about the quality of care we would get on Medi-Cal. I’m hoping for a positive answer!

A: Sadly, I’m about to disappoint Beth from Modesto and others in her situation.

Medi-Cal is the state’s publicly funded health program for low-income and disabled residents, and currently provides care to more than 8 million Californians. (It is the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program.)

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Starting in January, Medi-Cal will broaden its eligibility requirements as a result of Obamacare, allowing applicants with higher incomes and those who were previously ineligible, such as childless adults, to get coverage.

But whether you’re eligible for Medi-Cal now or become eligible then, that fact alone disqualifies you from tax subsidies on the health insurance marketplace, which is called Covered California.

Covered California will offer 13 health plans across the state (not all in each region) that cover a standard set of benefits. Individuals and families who earn between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for sliding-scale tax credits to purchase those plans. Continue reading

Where California Stands in Mental Health Needs and Services

The San Joaquin Valley has rates of mental health professionals far below state average. (Melissa Wiese/Flickr)

The San Joaquin Valley has rates of mental health professionals far below state average. (Melissa Wiese/Flickr)

Two new assessments released Wednesday gave an overview of mental health in California – from suicide rates to access to care to the supply of mental health professionals.

While there are bright spots, they provide a pretty sobering view. The first, Mental Health Care in California: Painting A Picture, details that nearly 1 in 6 adults in the state has “a mental health need” and 1 in 20 has a serious mental illness. The rate in children is even higher: 1 in 13.

And too many people are not getting treatment. According to the analysis, half of adults and two-thirds of adolescents with a mental heath illness do not receive treatment. A big contributing factor is likely the state of the mental health workforce in California which is quantified in both the first report and the second. Both analyses are from the California HealthCare Foundation. They describe a varied and fragmented delivery and financing system in the state.

Steve Schilling knows the issue all too well. He’s CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista which has multiple health centers in southern San Joaquin Valley. He said “scarcity” would be a better word than “variation” when it came to describing mental health services. In the CHCF analysis, the San Joaquin Valley fell well below a state average for all  mental health professions. The Inland Empire also fared poorly. “I really think we have a non-system of behavioral health in California,” he said. Continue reading

California Bill Would Lift Ban on Paying Women for Eggs Used in Research

By Elaine Korry, KQED

Human egg in a follicle. (Ivor Mason, KCL, Wellcome Images via Flickr)

Human egg in a follicle. (Ivor Mason, KCL, Wellcome Images via Flickr)

A bill awaiting Gov. Brown’s signature would end a decade-old disparity in California law regarding egg donation. Under current law, it is legal to pay a woman who provides her eggs, called oocytes, to a couple going through in-vitro fertilization. But there is a ban on paying the same woman for the same eggs if they are to be used in medical research.

AB 926, a bill by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord), would lift that ban on payment for research oocytes. Bonilla said the bill will create equity in the field of medical research compensation. “This is the only research procedure that does not compensate,” said Bonilla. “As a result of that, a lot of very important research, particularly around women’s fertility, just has not taken place here in California.”

Fertility research resulted in cancer survivor Alice Crisci holding on to her dream of motherhood. Crisci’s “miracle boy,” as she calls him, is due Oct. 4, five years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At age 31, facing chemotherapy, Crisci had her own eggs preserved. She underwent ovarian stimulation, which involved weeks of hormone injections — to increase the number of follicles she produced — followed by a procedure to retrieve the eggs. Continue reading

Headaches, Heart Disease, Stroke; Can Aspirin Prevent Cancer, Too?

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

We’ve known for years that the lowly over-the-counter aspirin not only relieves headaches, but it can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Now researchers have demonstrated aspirin can do even more: it may prevent cancer, specifically colon cancer in women.

There has been mounting evidence that links aspirin use to lower rates of cancer, particularly gastrointestinal cancers like colon cancer. Yet, few studies have set out to directly ask whether aspirin actually reduces cases of cancer.

Over the 18 year study, women who took aspirin reduced their risk of colon cancer by about 20 percent.
Results from the Women’s Health Study (WHS) released Monday is the first to examine how every-other-day use of low-dose aspirin specifically affects cancer in women, said Nancy Cook an author on the paper.

The researchers chose to use a low-dose of aspirin to minimize the drug’s side effects.

Until now, there has been little information about what dose of aspirin might be needed to prevent cancer. Continue reading

Quick Read: Long-Running Lawsuit Over Hazardous Lead Paint Comes to Trial in Santa Clara County

Lead paint has been banned since 1978, largely due to the health effects of lead poisoning in children, including learning disabilities and stunted growth. But the paint lingers in housing built before the ban. Public officials in 10 northern California counties are suing five large paint manufacturers, such as Sherwin-Williams and Atlantic Richfield, to order them to remove lead paint from millions on homes in these counties. The cost? About $1 billion.


From old cottages in Berkeley and Palo Alto to ranch-style homes in Silicon Valley, the remnants of a hazardous past can lurk in the walls — lead paint.
And now 10 California cities and counties will finally get to try to make the powerful paint industry pay dearly to remove those poisonous ghosts from millions of homes around the state.

Read more at:

Drink Up: Schools Must Provide More Water During Meals

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource Today

A student fills a reusable water bottle at a hydration station at Fort Bragg High School. (Jennifer McClendon/Network for a Healthy California)

Hydration stations like this one at Fort Bragg High School are popular with students. (Jennifer McClendon/Network for a Healthy California)

Let them drink water.

That’s the message of a new federal regulation that requires schools to expand free water service for students at meals, beginning this September.

As a drink with zero calories, low cost and near-ubiquitous availability, water would seem an obvious choice for a school beverage, given the epidemic of obesity among California children. But making drinking water available in cafeterias has been a challenge for some schools, despite state and federal laws requiring that they do so at lunch. This new regulation, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for the first time requires free drinking water at breakfast — and is the latest legal prod in the effort to bring water instead of sugary drinks into the mouths of students.

“This regulation is one more push toward raising awareness,” said Karla Hampton, co-author of the 2012 policy brief “Fulfilling the Promise of Free Water in K-12 Schools,” produced by researchers at UCSF and two advocacy groups.

The next step, she acknowledged, is to persuade reluctant students to give tap water a chance. “When it’s not just coming out of a dirty old fountain, when you have ice cubes, water containers and clean water in schools, they like it,” she said.

Dry campuses Continue reading