Community Health

From rural California to urban neighborhoods, where you live affects your health

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Mental Health Training for Police Officers Helps Defuse Crises

An impromptu memorial in Isla Vista, Calif. for a victim of the mass shooting May 23, 2014. (Diane Block/KQED)

An impromptu memorial in Isla Vista, Calif. for a victim of the mass shooting May 23, 2014. Incidents such as these have raised the issue of how well law enforcement officers are trained to deal with people with severe mental illness. (Diane Block/KQED)

By Stephanie O’Neill

Debbie is a Ventura County mother of a 23-year-old son diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At times his condition becomes so severe that he gets delusional and requires hospitalization.

“They weren’t threatening; they didn’t scare him. It stayed really, really calm.”
“He doesn’t understand that he’s ill and that he needs help,” Debbie says. “He thinks he’s fine.”

Debbie, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons, says when that happens, she calls the sheriff’s department for help — as she did earlier this year. Their response, she says, was heartening.

“The police officers … were so great, because they kept telling him, ‘You’re not in trouble, we’re here to help you,’ ” she says. “So they weren’t threatening; they didn’t scare him. It stayed really, really calm.” Continue reading

Critics Say Covered California Ill-Equipped to Help Former Foster Youth

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Former foster youth lined up at Covered California’s last board meeting to complain about the hoops they have to jump through to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor.

“Navigating adulthood is challenging enough, let alone trying to find insurance to cover your medical needs,” said Vanessa Hernandez, who spent 14 years in foster care. She says her younger brother tried twice to sign up online before he gave up.

“Currently the process is very unclear, it’s hard to navigate, and it’s not very accessible,” she said. Continue reading

California Ranks 40th in Children’s Well-Being

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By April Laissle

California is well behind almost every other state when it comes to caring for its kids, according to an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its Oakland-based partner, Children Now.

The report looks at four indicators of children’s well-being: family stability, economic stability, health, and education. This year, California inched up one spot to 40th overall, but ranked 26th in the health category.

Some of that progress is due to the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, though advocates say there is still work to be done.

“We have increased the number of children now that are on Medi-Cal,” said Jessica Mindnich, research director at Children Now. “But do these kids actually have access to doctors and to dentists? Are they able to get in in a timely manner?” Continue reading

Sonoma County Has Highest Whooping Cough Rate in Statewide Epidemic

Napa has the second highest rate of the disease. (Esparrow1/Flickr)

Napa has the second highest rate of the disease. (Esparrow1/Flickr)

By Lynne Shallcross

It’s been a little over a month since California declared a whooping cough epidemic, and according to the most recent data from the state, three neighboring Bay Area counties have the highest rates of the disease statewide: Sonoma, Napa and Marin.

Sonoma County’s rate of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is almost 120 cases per 100,000 people. Napa County’s rate is 90 per 100,000, and Marin’s rate is 65 per 100,000.

Sonoma County’s interim health officer, Karen Holbrook, says the number of cases reported each week has peaked and is now declining.

“It’s not what the state is experiencing as a whole, but we are coming down,” Holbrook says. “Will that hold indefinitely remains to be seen.”

Holbrook says California is seeing a whooping cough epidemic partly because the disease is cyclical, with cases spiking every three to five years. Continue reading

School Nursing in Small-Town California: Much More Than You Think

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Bernice Arnett, school nurse for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, is in charge of student health at the district’s seven public schools. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: School nursing is more than Band-Aids and ice packs. Nurses help students with complex medical conditions and tough home lives. Bernice Arnett is a nurse for seven schools in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District — two Central Valley towns just south of Modesto. This month, our ongoing health series called Vital Signs focuses on prevention. Arnett talks about how she’s working to keep students and families in her community healthy.

By Bernice Arnett

There have been days where I have visited all seven sites in one day. But I was doing reactive nursing rather than proactive nursing. There were times that I’d have to actually triage in my head what I should go do first.

You treat the whole student. Sometimes you treat the whole family. And a lot of times, families are desperate. They don’t know where to turn. Continue reading

Fresno Community Garden is Sanctuary for Hmong Refugee

smile in crops

Cha Deng Vang, 68, tends to the community garden at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries. Working in the garden helps Vang, a refugee from Laos, relieve anxiety and get exercise. (Annabelle Beecher/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Refugees face unique challenges building lives in the United States. Cha Deng Vang fled Laos in 1987 after fighting as soldier in the US-backed forces. As part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we hear from 68-year-old Vang who has found that a community garden for Hmong refugees at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries has helped him build community and relieve stress. Chong Vang and Sam Chang helped to translate his story.

By Cha Deng Vang

On this side we are growing Hmong pumpkin. They’re very round and very big compared to the American version.

Growing up my parents taught me how to garden and farm. As soon as I turned 18, I became a soldier, and that was basically my entire life.

When I first came to America, I had no education. I couldn’t find a job which equals no money to help my family. So with no financial support, it was a lot of stress on the entire family. And on top of that we also had a lot of illness in the family, which also caused a lot of stress on me as well. Continue reading

Code Black: Young Doctors Still in Love with Medicine

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary "Code Black."

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary “Code Black.”

Don’t eat a sandwich before you sit down to watch the documentary “Code Black.” In one of the first scenes, we watch a team of doctors and nurses cut into a patient. It’s a bloody business, and the camera doesn’t turn away. That’s because this film is about the brilliant chaos of emergency care, and the people drawn to this work.

For all the debate over health care in America, it’s relatively rare to hear from doctors on the front lines, and even more rare to hear from young doctors about a field they’ve recently chosen to devote their lives to. “Code Black,” a documentary by a doctor when he was a resident at LA County’s USC Medical Center, delivers that perspective with punch and passion. It promises a look into “America’s busiest ER.” Continue reading

Finding a Nursing Home When you Don’t Speak the Language

teri lim photo

Teri Lim, an attorney in Los Angeles, had a tough time finding a nursing home for her mother. After a stroke, her mother needed constant care but many nursing homes in the area were ill-equipped to deal with Korean-speaking patients. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Finding a nursing home for a loved one can be a daunting task. The job becomes more complicated when that family member doesn’t speak English. As part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we hear from Teri Lim who immigrated with her parents to Los Angeles from Korea. After her mother had a stroke two years ago, Lim started searching for a place to give her mom around-the-clock care. 

By Teri Lim

I found this great rehabilitation home, and I took her there (but) she couldn’t last a day because she couldn’t speak English. When she pressed her button for help, someone would peek in, but my mom was not able to really fully articulate what was wrong with her, and they would just leave. Then she would press the button again.

After a while my mom was perceived as kind of a difficult patient because her needs were not met. She was so frustrated. I could just see in her face that she was very strained.

Continue reading

Whooping Cough Epidemic Continues — 1,100 New Cases in Last Two Weeks

A vial containing the acellular pertussis vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

A vial containing the acellular pertussis vaccine (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In the two weeks since California health officials declared a whooping cough epidemic, the state has added 1,100 more cases, officials with the California Department of Public Health said Friday.

That brings the total number of cases to 4,558. A third infant died of the disease recently. The baby, from Sacramento County, had started showing symptoms at just 3 weeks of age. The baby was hospitalized for more than a year and then passed away.

Infants are at particular risk because they cannot be vaccinated until they are several weeks old. Generally, the recommendation is that babies receive the first dose of vaccine at 8 weeks, but in light of the epidemic, state health officials say babies can be vaccinated at 6 weeks.

Continue reading

Covered California Needs Better Outreach to Limited-English Speakers, Advocates Say

A report from Berkeley's Greenlining Institute called on Covered California to make its enrollment website available in more languages than English and Spanish.

A report from Berkeley’s Greenlining Institute called on Covered California to make its enrollment website available in more languages than English and Spanish.

Covered California may have had strong overall enrollment, but people who do not speak English as a first language are underrepresented in the state’s health insurance marketplace, according to an analysis from Berkeley’s Greenlining Institute.

The report relied on Covered California data, which showed that 20 percent of enrollees do not speak English as a primary language. That’s compared with 44 percent of Californians overall.

“We know California is a diverse state ethnically and linguistically,” said Jordan Medina, a health policy fellow with Greenlining and lead author of the study. “Moving forward, if the Affordable Care Act is going to work in California, we have to make sure those populations are represented in the health insurance marketplace.” Continue reading