Author Archives: state of health

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.

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

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

Tough Sell Getting Students Interested in Health Insurance

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Just three people attended a presentation on Covered California held recently at San Diego State University. (Nicholas McVicker/KPBS)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

At a recent Covered California forum at San Diego State University, you could have heard a pin drop. There were only three students in the audience.

“I don’t think they realize that you’re healthy until you’re not. And that’s not the time to get coverage,” Jan Spencley, San Diegans for Healthcare Coverage.

Still, presenter Jan Spencley went through her entire PowerPoint routine.

Spencley directs the non-profit San Diegans for Healthcare Coverage. She told the students that without health insurance, one accident could saddle them with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

And that would ruin their credit.

“You don’t get a phone on your own, you don’t get an apartment on your own, you don’t buy a car on your own if your credit’s messed up,” she told the students. Continue reading

Many Older Breast Cancer Patients Receive Unnecessary Radiation Treatment

New evidence on the effectiveness of medical treatments can take a long time to be adopted by doctors.(Getty Images)

New evidence on the effectiveness of medical treatments can take a long time to be adopted by doctors.(Getty Images)

By Patti Neighmond, NPR

Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren’t paying attention to evidence that older women with early-stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment even though it doesn’t increase life expectancy.

Radiation had no impact on survival rates in older women with early-stage cancer.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center analyzed the impact of a large randomized trial published in 2004 that compared treatment options for women over the age of 70 with early-stage breast cancer. That study compared cancer recurrence and survival rates among women who had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with that of women who had surgery and chemotherapy only.

While there was a slight decrease in recurrence of cancer in the group who had radiation, there was no difference in survival, thus raising the question of whether radiation treatment for this group of patients is worthwhile. Continue reading

Bogus Spine Surgery Hardware Enriched Company, Left Patients in Pain

Derika Moses, a former softball star, lost her job, and then her home, as she grappled with pain and illness after her spinal surgery. (Annie Tritt/CIR)

Derika Moses, a former softball star, lost her job, and then her home, as she grappled with pain and illness after her spinal surgery.
(Annie Tritt/CIR)

By Christina Jewett and Will Evans, The Center for Investigative Reporting

This story was originally published by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

With a metallic clatter, evidence of an elaborate scheme to enrich a few landed in the receiving room of Richard Walker’s surgical supply firm in South Africa.

 ‘I’m a walking time bomb.’

Although the true extent of the caper remains buried in the necks and backs of people scattered around the U.S., it began to unravel that day in 2009.

Ortho Sol makes precision screws for the most delicate of construction projects: spinal fusion. Doctors around the world drive them into the vertebrae of patients with devastating back injuries.

The company had repossessed some of its screws after one U.S. distributor – Spinal Solutions LLC – stopped paying its bills. But now, nestled with the returns, the brighter yellow luster of a few screws caught Walker’s eye.

Testing confirmed his fears. Some were not made of his firm’s medical-grade titanium. Their uneven threads showed potential for backing out or breaking, he said. He feared the laser-etched markings intended to make them look authentic could be toxic to patients. Continue reading

Schools Provide Vision Testing — Eyeglasses A Bigger Challenge

(Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

San Jose student receives eye exam from nonprofit “Vision to Learn.” (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource Today)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource Today

It was a good week for the 90 students at Merritt Trace Elementary School in San Jose who climbed into a mobile eye exam van and emerged with the promise of a free pair of eyeglasses. But for thousands of students across the state who need glasses but don’t have them, it was another blurry week of not seeing the blackboard or the letters in a book.

Effective Jan. 1, two new state laws will clarify and expand the protocol for mandatory vision screening of students. But they don’t address the crux of a major children’s health conundrum: ensuring that students who fail the vision test actually get eyeglasses.

As many as one in four students in kindergarten through 12th grade has a vision problem, but in some California schools, the majority of students in need of glasses don’t receive them, researchers said. One study of 11,000 low-income first-graders in Southern California found that 95 percent of students who needed eyeglasses didn’t have them, one year after their mandatory kindergarten vision screening.

“You would hope that the problems would have been caught,” said Dr. Anne Coleman, a co-author of the study and an ophthalmologist at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. Continue reading

Map: See How Obamacare Transformed Health Insurance Coverage in California

By Ronald Campbell, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

In 2013, 6.6 million Californians lacked health insurance.

Then came the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. By April of this year, Covered California, the
state’s health insurance marketplace, had enrolled 1.4 million people, although not all of them were previously uninsured. Today 1.12 million remain enrolled. An additional 2.5 million people enrolled through July in Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor.

In the map, click on a county to see the pre-ACA uninsured rate — and the number of people who signed up for Covered California or Medi-Cal. The Census Bureau will have data on 2014 total insurance coverage in September 2015.