Author Archives: state of health

Stanford Tests Artificial Pancreas on Children with Diabetes

Study participant Tia Geri explains how this artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

Study participant Tia Geri explains how her artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

By April Laissle

This week seven children are participating in a Stanford research study in a somewhat unusual setting — a hotel in Newark, outside San Francisco. Researchers are testing an “artificial pancreas” on these children who all have Type 1 diabetes. The device is the latest advance in diabetes management technology.

“We’re trying to push this system to the limit by having the kids eat a lot and get out and run.”

The artificial pancreas is an android phone loaded with software mimicking the function of a real pancreas. Using bluetooth, the device communicates with two monitors attached to the patient’s body; one that keeps track of blood sugar levels and another that pumps insulin into the body when those sugar levels are too high. It determines when and how much insulin to release and sends that information to the insulin pump without patient intervention.

Researchers say the device could simplify the lives of those with diabetes by taking the guesswork out of treating the disease.  Continue reading

Another Step Closer to Autism Therapy as Medi-Cal Benefit?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

CMS officials last week approved a state plan amendment for the state of Washington that includes autism therapy as a Medicaid benefit.

It’s the second state in a month to receive that go-ahead from the federal government, and it means autism coverage should be a Medi-Cal benefit in California, as well, according to Kristin Jacobson, president of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage, a not-for-profit autism advocacy group.

The budget passed this week by the California Legislature omitted autism therapy as a Medi-Cal benefit.

Autism advocates hope one day soon CMS will make it clear that applied behavior analysis treatment — known as ABA therapy — should be a required benefit for all states receiving Medicaid, including California. Continue reading

California Assembly Rejects Sugary Drink Warning Label

(KJM-427/Flickr)

(KJM-427/Flickr)

By Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press

A bill that would have made California the first state in the nation to require warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks was effectively killed Tuesday.

Sen. Bill Monning’s SB1000 failed on a 7-8 vote as his fellow Democratic lawmakers doubted whether a label would change consumer behavior. It needed 10 votes to pass.

Certain sodas, energy drinks and fruit drinks would have included a label reading, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Continue reading

Mom’s 30 Day Ab Challenge Goes Viral on Facebook

Still, don't expect abs of steel at the end of 30 days. (Jessica Quinn/Flickr)

Still, don’t expect abs of steel at the end of 30 days. (Jessica Quinn/Flickr)

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff, NPR

Robyn Mendenhall Gardner was amazed when what started off as a monthlong ab workout challenge between friends and family caught fire on the Web.

More than 2.7 million people have signed on to the challenge.
The Montana mother of eight told Shots she came across a 30-day ab fitness plan online and, after having a tough time finishing it, turned it into a Facebook event to motivate herself.

Within days, the Facebook challenge went viral. At last count, more than 2.7 million people had signed up. And Gardner’s challenge attracted attention from major media outlets, including Good Morning America.

The challenge features a daily series of progressively longer sets of crunches, planks, sit ups and leg lifts. Participants have taken to the Facebook event’s wall, reporting their progress and encouraging each other to stick with it. The challenge lasts through the end of June. Continue reading

6 Questions About Contraceptives, the ACA, and the Supreme Court

Customers entering a Hobby Lobby store in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Antioch. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

Customers entering a Hobby Lobby store in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Antioch. The owners of the company are evangelical Christians and object, on religious grounds, to providing certain types of birth control. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

By Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News

One of the most watched issues before the Supreme Court this term may turn on the question of religious freedom. But it will also likely determine how women will be able to access a key provision of the Affordable Care Act – one seeking to guarantee no-cost prescription contraception in most health insurance plans.

The justices’ ruling on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius, two cases that are being considered together, is expected by the end of this month. The court will decide whether those companies, and potentially all other for-profit companies, must abide by the so-called contraceptive mandate. It’s a complicated legal thicket, so here is some background.

1. What is the contraceptive mandate?

The health law requires that most insurance plans provide preventive care services without out-of-pocket expense to beneficiaries. The Obama administration included all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration as part of a package of preventive services for women. Continue reading

In Fresno, High School Program Aims at Lack of Provider Diversity

Graduating seniors from the three Doctors Academy sites in Fresno. Dr. Katherine Flores, founder of the academy, stands in the front row. (Courtesy: Doctors Academy)

Graduating seniors from the three Doctors Academy sites in Fresno. Dr. Katherine Flores, founder of the academy, stands in the front row. Flores grew up in a farmworker family. (Courtesy: UCSF Fresno)

By Alice Daniel, California Healthline

Stephanie Huerta grew up in a farmworker family in rural Caruthers, 15 miles southwest of Fresno. Her parents are from Mexico and neither had the opportunity to finish high school — or in her mom’s case, middle school.

‘You can have a dream but if you don’t have the tools to attain that dream, you’re really stymied.’

At 14, Huerta got pregnant and gave birth at the beginning of her freshman year in high school. Huerta was a very good student and, with the help of a counselor, she got through that school year even while caring for an infant. Her sophomore year, a new program called the Doctors Academy started at Caruthers High School. That was seven years ago, and it changed Huerta’s life.

“Looking back it was the best decision I could have made,” said Huerta, now about to become a college graduate. “I would have still been in Caruthers, maybe going to city college. I would have been pregnant again because that’s the cycle quite honestly. And I would have been too scared to go anywhere,” she added.

Continue reading

School Lunch Debate: What’s At Stake?

While 90 percent of schools have made the transition to new school lunch standards, some schools insist that the standards are unworkable. (Photo: USDA)

While 90 percent of schools have made the transition to new school lunch standards, some schools insist that the standards are unworkable. (Photo: USDA)

By Allison Aubrey and Jessica Pupovac, NPR

School lunches have never been known for culinary excellence. But to be fair, the National School Lunch Program — which provides free or reduced lunches to about 31 million kids every day — has never aimed to dazzle as much as to fill little bellies.

In 2010, Congress gave the Federal School Lunch Program a nutrition make-over. New regulations called for:

  • Increasing the amount of whole grains served in school cafeterias
  • Shifting to fat free or low-fat milks
  • Limiting the amount of calories that can come from saturated fats to 10 percent
  • Offering fruits and vegetables on a daily basis
  • Implementing caloric minimums and maximums for each meal

Those were just the first steps. By the school year starting this fall, schools are also required to: Continue reading

California’s Hispanics Worry About Long-Term Care

There is a 45% increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely, according to a UCSF study.

A new poll shows nearly one in five Hispanics has not discussed the kind of care they want as they get older. (Photo: Getty Images)

By Kevin Freking, Matt Hamilton, Associated Press

When it comes to planning for old age, Hispanics in California worry much more than whites about their ability to pay for care they may need and the prospect that they will be left alone without family and friends.

55 percent of Hispanics worry about paying for care, versus 37 percent of whites.

Yet, Hispanics are also more reticent to discuss plans for long-term care with their families, a new poll indicated. Fewer than one in five California Hispanics have discussed with a loved one the type of living assistance they would want, compared with nearly half of whites, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

California’s diverse aging population gives researchers the opportunity to better understand how various demographic groups deal with the issues of long-term care, which involves a range of services, from getting help from a health care aide at home to moving into a nursing home. Continue reading

Fruit Juice vs. Soda? Both Beverages Pack a Wallop of Sugar

Minute Maid 100 percent apple juice has more fructose per liter than Coke and Pepsi. (Trisha Weir/Flickr)

Minute Maid 100 percent apple juice has more fructose per liter than Coke and Pepsi. (Trisha Weir/Flickr)

By Eliza Barclay, NPR

When it comes to choosing between sodas and juices in the beverage aisle, the juice industry has long benefited from a health halo.

’100 percent fruit juice is as bad as sugar-sweetened beverages for its effects on our health.’  

We know that juice comes from fruit, while soda is artificial. In particular, the sugars in juice seem more “natural” than high fructose corn syrup — the main sweetener in so many sodas. After all, we’ve gotten rid of most of the soda we used to offer kids at school, but schools can still offer juice.

But a study published online in the journal Nutrition, shows that on average fruit juice has a fructose concentration of about 45.5 grams per liter, only a bit less than the average of 50 grams per liter for sodas. The sneakiest — and sweetest — juice is Minute Maid 100 percent apple, with nearly 66 grams of fructose per liter. That’s more than the 62.5 grams per liter in Coca-Cola and the 61 grams per liter in Dr. Pepper. Continue reading

Obamacare No Help to Undocumented Immigrants

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center.  The center serves as a conduit between its members -- many of whom are undocumented -- and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center. The center serves as a conduit between its members — many of whom are undocumented — and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

California may lead the nation in numbers of people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but there are still millions in the state without health insurance.

‘That leaves a lot of low-wage workers without any health care coverage.’
Some of the people most likely to remain uninsured are undocumented Californians. While they can buy health insurance with their own money, they are specifically excluded from receiving any benefits under the ACA. Community groups and non-profits in cities and towns across California work to fill in the gaps.

One of them is Graton, a small town in Sonoma County, about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa.

When I arrive at the Graton Day Labor Center a woman named Maria is standing behind a table filled with containers of homemade food. There’s oatmeal — with no added sugar, she tells me — tortillas and salsa, fish for tacos, and salad. Continue reading