Community Health

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

RECENT POSTS

When Health Care Is Far From Home

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour long bus ride to Mad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour-long bus ride to Mad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

The biggest barrier to treatment for residents of a tiny town in the mountains of Northern California isn’t insurance coverage — it’s distance.

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

HAYFORK, Calif. — It’s Tuesday morning, half past eight and already hot, when the small bus pulls up to the community clinic. Most of the passengers are waiting in front — an old man with a cane, two mothers with four kids between them, packed lunches in hand.

Two more arrive. A gray-bearded man with a pirate bandana steps from the shelter of his Subaru. A sunken-cheeked woman rushes up on her bike.

“Woohoo! We have a full car!” the driver says brightly after they’ve all climbed aboard. The riders smile back, some with a hint of resignation. It’s time for the weekly trip to the clinic in Mad River, about 30 miles down a winding mountain road. The tight twists and turns are hard on the stomach, but even harder on the joints — especially if you have chronic Lyme disease, as more than a few of these riders do.

Jeff Clarke is one of them. He acquired Lyme long ago from deer ticks that dwell in the region’s sprawling forests. But today he’s going to ask about a lump that’s been growing in his left breast. It’s starting to hurt, and he’s worried. His fellow riders list their own ailments matter-of-factly: asthma, dental decay, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and much more. Continue reading

California Lawmakers Scrutinize Psychotropic Drug Prescriptions to Foster Kids

In California, 63,000 children and teenagers are in foster care in private homes or group homes run by the state.

A quarter of them were prescribed potent psychotropic drugs.

That sobering statistic was unearthed in a Bay Area News Group investigation last year, which analyzed a decade of state statistics. The drugs include Lithium and Depakote as well as anti-psychotics such as Haldol, Risperdal and Abilify. Continue reading

Calif. Calls Kaiser Mental Health Services ‘Inadequate’ as Treatment Delays Persist

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

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

A teenager with major depression and thoughts of suicide is forced to wait 24 days for an initial appointment.

A sexual assault victim, diagnosed with PTSD and major depression, sends numerous emails requesting individual psychotherapy, only to have her psychiatrist suggest she should get outside help at her own expense because no weekly appointments are available. Total time between appointments: Five months.

Following up on a survey that resulted in a $4 million fine against the HMO in 2013.  

A patient deemed high-risk for domestic abuse doesn’t show up for appointments, but mental health staff do not attempt contact. The couples therapy called for in his treatment plan does not occur. Domestic violence resulting in severe injury ensues. The man then tries to make an appointment but can’t get one.

Continue reading

Beyond Abolishing the ‘Personal Belief Exemption’ To Raise Vaccination Rates

Students leaving a vaccine clinic after being vaccinated against whooping cough at a middle school in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Students leaving a vaccine clinic after being vaccinated against whooping cough at a middle school in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

On Wednesday in Sacramento, a MoveOn.org member is expected to deliver a petition with 21,000 signatures calling on the state’s government to abolish the personal belief exemption.

“Focusing on the parental-choice issue risks provoking a counter-productive backlash.”

She will be holding a press conference with Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who announced a bill earlier this month to do just that. When he made the announcement, Pan repeatedly spoke of wanting to increase vaccination rates.

It sounds so good: Just wipe out the option to refuse vaccines, and vaccination rates will improve.

But is abolishing the personal belief exemption — a choice that permits parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated — the best way to accomplish that goal? Continue reading

More Pressure on Providers in Face of Medi-Cal Expansion

Dr. Davi Pakter, of Berkeley LifeLong Clinic, prepares to see patients. (Julie Small/KQED)

Dr. Davi Pakter, of Berkeley LifeLong Clinic, (right) prepares to see patients. (Julie Small/KQED)

Medi-Cal — the public health insurance program for low-income Californians — is growing faster under federal health care reform than the state expected. Twelve million residents — nearly a third of the state’s population — now rely on Medi-Cal, and that’s increased pressure to find more doctors willing and able to treat patients for what has historically been low reimbursement rates.

At the LifeLong Clinic in West Berkeley most of the patients waiting to see a doctor are on Medi-Cal. Among them, 26-year-old Amanda Hopkins, says she enrolled half a year ago when the state expanded the benefits program.

“It’s been relieving to have Medi-Cal and know that if something happened — I needed an ambulance or there was an emergency — I wouldn’t have to worry about being in debt thousands of dollars,” she said. Continue reading

When A Court Ordered Kids Vaccinated — Against Parents’ Will

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Anders Kelto, NPR

A highly contagious disease was sweeping across the United States. Thousands of children were sick and some were dying. In the midst of this outbreak, health officials did something that experts say had never been done before and hasn’t been done since. They forced parents to vaccinate their children.

The church ran a school with about a thousand kids. None had been vaccinated.  

It sounds like something that would have happened a hundred years ago. But this was 1991 — and the disease was measles.

Dr. Robert Ross was deputy health commissioner of the hardest-hit city, Philadelphia, where the outbreak was centered around the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in the northern part of town.

“This church community did not believe in either immunizations or medical care,” says Ross. Today, he heads The California Endowment, a private health foundation, based in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Getting Vaccinated Against Measles: What You Need to Know

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Liza Gross

The measles outbreak that started in December has sickened 141 people in 17 states. California has the most cases by far: 113 as of last Friday with about half traced to Disneyland.

State health officials are urging anyone who is not immunized against measles to get vaccinated. To help people figure out whether they need to get vaccinated against measles or other diseases, I spoke with Dr. Roger Baxter, who co-directs Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study Center in Oakland.

First up, children. The Centers for Disease Control recommends two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as follows:

  • First dose at 12-15 months
  • Second dose at 4-6 years

I asked Dr. Baxter, why is a second shot needed? Continue reading

Parents Relieved as Son Gets First Post-Leukemia Vaccines

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday at the Prima Medical Group in Greenbrae. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

It’s been a big week for 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt.

On Tuesday, he stood on a folding chair at the podium to address his southern Marin school district’s board members and urged them to adopt a resolution in favor of ending the vaccine “personal belief exemption” in California. Television news crews lined one side of the auditorium. Rhett is recovering from cancer, and he’s become the face of the importance of widespread vaccination.

Because Rhett is recovering from years of chemotherapy, he’s been unable to be vaccinated. His immune system wasn’t strong enough.

Until now. Continue reading

Statewide Soda Warning Bill Returns

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

By David Gorn, CaliforniaHealthline

State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) is not giving up in the battle to put a health-risk warning label on sugared drinks. On Wednesday, Monning reintroduced the legislation (SB 203) that failed to pass during the last session.

But expect a different result this year, Monning said.

“We certainly hope for a different outcome this year, and again we expect strong resistance as we had last year,” Monning said. “But this is part of a larger general public health effort … Tobacco was a decades-long struggle. Now we see a change in the number of people who are affected by tobacco. We’re in the early stages.” Continue reading

First Measles Case in Contra Costa; BART Riders Potentially Exposed

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)

A Contra Costa Country resident commuting to and from work in San Francisco last week may have exposed some BART riders to measles, health officials said today.

Officials with Contra Costa Health Services and the San Francisco Department of Public Health said risk of contracting measles by being exposed to the disease on BART is low, but riders should nonetheless be aware of the situation.

The person traveled between the Lafayette and Montgomery BART stations during the morning and evening commutes from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The person also spent time at E&O Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant located at 314 Sutter St. in San Francisco, on Feb. 4 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Continue reading