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Frontline ‘Vaccine War’ Live Chat; Wednesday 3/25, Noon PT

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Frontline aired an updated version of its 2008 documentary The Vaccine War on Tuesday night. The film dives deep into the debate over vaccines. While the overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their children, a small but growing minority either under-vaccinate their children or refuse vaccines altogether.

The debate has taken a new turn in the wake of the measles outbreak which started in Disneyland in December. Public health officials believe a still-unknown person infected with measles visited the park and spread it to others. As the outbreak took hold, a new front in the debate grew: that of people who are immune-compromised.

State of Health first told the story of Carl Krawitt the father of 7-year-old Rhett who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was two and a half. Because of the treatments Rhett underwent to fight his disease, prior vaccine protection was wiped out, and he had to wait until he had been in remission for a year before his vaccines could begin again. The Krawitt family has been arguing that those unvaccinated by choice should not be able to attend public school.

Frontline producers told the story of Rhett’s family in The Vaccine War.

Now, it’s your turn. On Wednesday (March 25) at noon PT, Frontline is hosting a live chat, and I’m honored to be the moderator. ‘Vaccine War’ producer and director Kate McMahon will take your questions, along with Carl Krawitt, and Dr. Arthur Reingold, Head of Epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Feel free to leave a question now and please join us at noon for the chat!

Depression Takes Growing Toll on American Workplace

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Lisa Gillespie, Kaiser Health News

For every dollar spent on treating depression, nearly five dollars more is spent on related medical conditions like back and chest pain, sleep disorders and migraines. Depression can also lead to lost productivity, placing a greater financial burden on businesses and the health care system, according to new research measuring the economic impact of depression.

Average worker with major depression loses the productivity of 32 days a year.

“The fact that they’re finding such greater costs with all these different [related conditions] underscores how the fragmented system is not helpful for our economy because people with mental illness are not getting the rounded health care they need,” said Lynn Bufka, with the American Psychological Association, who was not affiliated with the study.

The total cost to the U.S. economy of major depressive disorder rose to $210 billion in 2010, up more than 20 percent from $173 billion in 2008. Continue reading

The Gentle Cesarean: More Like A Birth Than An Operation

Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section. (Courtesy: Kristen DeBoy Caminiti)

Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section.
(Courtesy: Kristen DeBoy Caminiti)

By Jennifer Schmidt, NPR

There are many reasons women need cesareans. Sometimes the situation is truly life threatening. But often the problem is labor simply isn’t progressing. That was the case for Valerie Echo Duckett, 35, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. After receiving an epidural for pain, Duckett’s contractions stopped. By late evening she was told she’d need a C-section to deliver her son, Avery. Duckett says she has vague memories of being wheeled into the OR, strapped down and shaking from cold.

“They were covering me up with warm blankets,”she says. “I kind of slept in and out of it.” Her only memory of meeting her newborn son for the first time was from some pictures her husband took.

This is the experience many women have. The cesarean section is the most common surgery in America – about 1 in 3 babies are delivered this way. But for many women, being told they need a C-section is unpleasant news. Duckett says she felt like she missed out on a pivotal moment in her pregnancy. Continue reading

Bay Area Golf Coach With Cerebral Palsy Defies Stereotypes (Video)

Don’t call Marty Turcios inspiring. Yes, he motivates and challenges his students, but not simply because he’s a golf coach with cerebral palsy.

Instead, his students say it’s his commitment to self-directed learning that is so empowering.

At the center of his coaching is this question: “When we teach, are we teaching people to think for themselves?”

 

On Friday mornings, Turcios critiques the golf swings of able-bodied UC Berkeley students at the Tilden Park driving range. Some regulars have been coming for two years; others are holding a golf club for the first time.

For the uninitiated, it is surprising to see Turcios, with his spasmodic movements and halting gait, swing a golf club. But he says his disability is not his problem: “My problem is how people look at me with a disability.” Continue reading

Is Bay Area Boom Driving Up Cost of Therapy?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Going out to dinner is really stressful for Carolyn Desimone. She has a lot of friends who work in the tech sector, and they always want to go to trendy places.

“I went out for ramen with some startup kids and it was 30 bucks a person. It was stupid,” she says. “Everyone at the table is making twice as much as I do.”

And they’re willing to spend twice as much on food. It’s an economic dynamic she notices in the cost of therapy, too. Desimone pays $65 an hour at a community clinic to get help with her anxiety.

‘Geek whisperers’ needed now more than ever as the price of mental health services rises.

“The pool of my friends, they’re all $100, $120 per appointment,” she says. “I’d never be able to do that. I couldn’t do that and pay my rent.”

The influx of tech workers to the Bay Area has had a profound effect on the local economy: Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. Dining out has become a competitive sport. And now, it seems the tech sector is applying upward pressure on the cost of some mental health services, too.

“One big variable is money,” says Michael Klein, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco. “The other is stress.” Continue reading

Silicon Valley is Thinner Than San Francisco-Oakland, Report Says

Woman's feet on scale.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The South Bay and San Francisco compete on a multitude of fronts: Which will snag the hottest tech firms, which can retain or attract the most sports teams, which will win the prize for least affordable housing…

But no matter how many prestige points San Francisco racks up, the South Bay can claim bragging rights based on at least one important metric: weight.

That’s according to WalletHub, a personal finance website that spends a lot of time compiling data on all sorts of things. (Last month they told us the Bay Area is one of the more diverse regions in the U.S.) From the site:

In light of National Nutrition Month, WalletHub analyzed 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas to identify those where weight-related problems call for heightened attention. We did so by examining 12 key metrics, among which are the percentage of adults and high school students who are obese and the percentage of people who are physically inactive.

Continue reading

Is Your Dishwasher Increasing Your Child’s Allergy Risk?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Rob Stein, NPR

Could using a dishwashing machine increase the chances your child will develop allergies? That’s what some provocative new research suggests — but don’t rip out your machine just yet.

The study involved 1,029 Swedish children (ages 7 or 8) and found that those whose parents said they mostly wash the family’s dishes by hand were significantly less likely to develop eczema, and somewhat less likely to develop allergic asthma and hay fever.

“I think it is very interesting that with a very common lifestyle factor like dishwashing, we could see effects on allergy development,” says Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, who led the study. Continue reading

Licensed Midwife Opens Birth Center in Fresno

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

By Alice Daniel, CaliforniaHealthline

Even as licensed midwife Detrah Hele explained why she recently opened a birth center in Fresno, she was in her car heading to a client’s home in Visalia.

Her client was a labor and delivery nurse who had already had two home births and was about to have a third one under Hele’s supervision. Hele has caught hundreds of babies since she got her license 10 years ago. She said it had been a dream of hers to establish a place where pregnant women could give birth outside a hospital setting.

After months of searching, she found the right property in downtown Fresno, a home on the historic register that was most recently the office of the Fresno Women’s Medical Group. She dealt with all the necessary city codes and opened The Birth Place in October 2014. It is the only birth center in the San Joaquin Valley. Another licensed midwife, Alex DePastene, works with her. Continue reading

Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

Continue reading

Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left). (Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

By Jon Hamilton, NPR

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”

That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading