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Answers to Five Common Measles Questions

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)

By Amanda Stupi

An outbreak of measles and a new report that identified clusters of vaccine refusals in Northern California have become this week’s hot topics. As such, KQED’s daily talk show Forum devoted an hour to the outbreak, and opened up the phones to listeners’ questions. The result: the sharing of some very good information. Here are answers to five common questions:

1. Can people who have been vaccinated against the measles still get it? 

Of the confirmed measles cases in California, at least five are people who were fully vaccinated. Experts aren’t exactly sure why this is the case.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. The measles vaccine comes close — it protects 99 out of 100 people, but that’s “one percent of a lot of people,” she said. Continue reading

Judge Rules on Medi-Cal Backlog, Orders Timely Access to Benefits

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(s_falkow: Flickr)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

On Thursday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to adhere to a 45-day limit for processing Medi-Cal applications.

The ruling by Judge Evelio Grillo was a victory for health care advocates in a lawsuit over the state’s extensive backlog in processing Medi-Cal applications. The Medi-Cal expansion and the first open enrollment period for Covered California brought millions of applications to the door of the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal.

Computer issues hampered the processing of many of those applications, and in March 2014 the backlog of unprocessed claims peaked at more than 900,000 applications. It took many months to clear the bulk of those applications. Some of them are still hanging fire almost a year later, said Jen Flory, senior attorney in the Sacramento office of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Continue reading

State Measles Cases Now at 68; Expect More

Five Disney staff members are among California's cases. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Five Disneyland staff members are among California’s cases. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Update, Friday, 1/23: The California Department of Public Health said Friday that 68 Californians have confirmed cases of measles.

Original post, Wed. 1/21:

State health officials report 59 confirmed cases of measles in nine counties. The patients range in age from 7 months to 70 years. The California Department of Public Health has linked 42 of these cases to people who visited Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Park. Initially, cases were linked to people who visited the parks in mid-December, but there are more confirmed cases who visited the parks in January while infectious.

The outbreak has spread beyond California with seven cases in Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Mexico has also confirmed a case.

Vaccination status is known for 34 of the California patients. State officials say that 28 were not vaccinated at all, one was partially vaccinated and five were fully vaccinated. (Six of the unvaccinated were babies, too young to be vaccinated.)

“Devastating Consequences”

“Measles is not a trivial illness,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez. “It can be very serious with devastating consequences.”  Those consequences include pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, 500 people a year died of the disease nationwide. In the current outbreak, 25 percent of people with measles have been hospitalized. Continue reading

Bay Area Communities Are Home to Clusters of People Refusing Vaccines

(Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

(Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

By Liza Gross

Although vaccines are among the safest, most effective ways to protect children from major communicable diseases, many parents, for reasons that range from ill-informed to infuriating, still doubt this. As a result, many choose immunization schedules that defy science or refuse to vaccinate altogether.

“These kinds of clusters can be associated with later epidemics.”
If these parents were distributed randomly, their decisions would be less likely to harm others, especially babies too young for vaccination. But as previous studies have shown, parents who use “personal belief exemptions” to avoid school vaccination requirements often live in the same communities.

Now, in a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers have (perhaps not surprisingly) found the same phenomenon among parents of infants and toddlers. These younger children face the highest risk of dying from whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

The study has come out as the state is grappling with a measles outbreak linked to people who visited Disneyland in mid-December. Continue reading

Disneyland Measles Cases Now at 26

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

The number of measles cases linked to having visited Disneyland parks in mid-December has climbed to 22 in California, according to state data. There are four more cases in other states — two in Utah and one each in Colorado and Washington.

While the incubation period for people who visited the parks between Dec. 17-20 ended on Jan. 10 — meaning that anyone who was at Disneyland in that time frame would have gotten sick by now — the Los Angeles Times is reporting that an unvaccinated, infected woman took two flights after she became ill.

The woman was in her 20s, the TImes reported, had visited Disneyland in December and became ill on Dec. 28.  Continue reading

Kaiser Mental Health Workers Launch 7-Day Strike

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By April Dembosky

Mental health clinicians at Kaiser are walking off the job Monday, commencing a week-long, statewide strike. Their main complaint: Kaiser isn’t hiring enough therapists and psychologists to see patients in a timely manner.

But the strike also comes after four years of contract negotiations between Kaiser and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have yielded few agreements.

“We’ve tried one and two day actions in the past. Kaiser is not paying attention to that,” says Clement Papazian, a social worker at Kaiser and a local union representative. “We feel like it’s the appropriate time to escalate these actions.”

Kaiser called the strike “unnecessary and counterproductive.”

John Nelson, Kaiser’s vice president of government relations, says the the hospital system is meeting its patients’ mental health needs, even after Kaiser has taken on thousands of new patients under the Affordable Care Act.

“Since 2011, we’ve grown membership by eight percent in California. We’ve increased the number of therapists in California who work at Kaiser Permanente by 25 percent,” Nelson said. “That’s quite an accomplishment.” Continue reading

Nine Measles Cases Tied to Disneyland Parks

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

Nine people who visited Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventure Park during December have confirmed measles cases, state health officials said Wednesday. Seven of the patients live in California and two live in Utah.

State and county health officers are investigating an additional four suspected cases, two in Utah and two in California. All the patients visited the parks in Orange County between Dec.15-20, California Department of Public Health officials said.

“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer, said in a statement. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.” Continue reading

Plenty of Responsibility, But No Required Training, for In-Home Caregivers

Oliver Massengale took over as his brother’s full-time caregiver six years ago. He says he hasn’t had time for himself in years. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Oliver Massengale took over as his brother’s full-time caregiver six years ago. He says he hasn’t had time for himself in years. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

Born just a year apart, Oliver Massengale and his brother Charles grew up together. Now, in a two-story home in Compton, they are growing old together. But Charles Massengale, 71, can do little on his own.

The former tree trimmer has severe brain damage from a 30-foot fall, as well as dementia, diabetes and high blood pressure. Six years ago, Oliver took over as his brother’s full-time caregiver. He’s paid about $10.00 an hour by the state.

It was not a job he was trained to do.

“I didn’t have a clue,” said Oliver, a retired grounds manager at a college. “I was just so afraid of what I was doing.”

He constantly worried –- about giving Charles the wrong medication, about him getting bedsores, about his blood pressure. And he had no idea how easily his brother could fall over. One day, he was cooking and Charles was on a stool at the kitchen counter. Continue reading

It’s Union vs. Union in Proposed Hospital Sale

O'Connor Hospital in San Jose is one of the six hospitals operated by Daughters of Charity that is being sold. (Courtesy: O'Connor Hospital)

O’Connor Hospital in San Jose is one of the six hospitals operated by Daughters of Charity that is being sold. (Courtesy: O’Connor Hospital)

By April Dembosky

Unions are sparring every day this week over the fate of six safety-net hospitals in California, showcasing how splintered the health care labor movement has become.

At issue is the same of the financially-distressed hospitals currently owned by the nonprofit Daughters of Charity. The leading buyer is for-profit Prime Healthcare.

The state attorney general’s office is hearing testimony at each of the six hospitals this week before it approved or denies the sale. Because the hospitals are owned by a non-profit, the state is tasked with making sure the sale to a for-profit company benefits the public interest.

Unions are divided over whether Prime is the right candidate for the job. Continue reading

Lack of Oversight for In-Home Caregivers Can Lead to Neglect and Death

Linda Maureen Raye at her sentencing at the Riverside County Hall of Justice. Raye pleaded guilty to elder abuse that led to the death of her mother. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Linda Maureen Raye at her sentencing at the Riverside County Hall of Justice. Raye pleaded guilty to elder abuse that led to the death of her mother. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

Yolanda Farrell lay mostly paralyzed in a nursing home, unable to feed or dress herself, when her homeless daughter persuaded her to move out.

“Essentially neglected to death” by her own daughter.  

Linda Maureen Raye, who relatives say had been living in her car with her dog, used her mother’s Social Security to pay for a one-bedroom Riverside apartment and took over as Farrell’s sole caregiver in 2010.

Over the next two years, according to police and court records, Raye, 60, took her elderly mother to the doctor once. As her mother’s health declined, Raye stopped cooperating with a nurse sent to advise her on preventing bedsores.

Yet in 2012, Raye was hired officially: She began collecting about $900 a month from taxpayers under the state’s in-home care program for poor people, according to law enforcement authorities. Continue reading