A smoggy sunset in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
When people think of climate change, they tend to think of it as a science and environmental issue. But climbing levels of greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and rising seas hurts more than the environment. It harms people’s health, too.
“Climate change is one of greatest public health threats of our time,” said Anne Kelsey Lamb of Oakland’s Public Health Institute.
Lamb was talking to a roomful of her own in a gathering this week when some 100 public health professionals from around the state and beyond were in Oakland to learn more about the intersection between climate change and public health – and what they can do about it. Continue reading
San Francisco City Hall is lit red on World AIDS Day in 2009. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images)
By Jim Bunn
It was the summer of 1983 and my first day on the job at KPIX — San Francisco’s CBS television affiliate. My assignment: cover a news conference at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank. It was about the new and mysterious disease, AIDS, and the blood supply.
“We need a day. Like ‘Cold-Turkey’ in the States where people quit smoking for a day.”
Sitting in the car to return to the station, my head was reeling. I had heard about AIDS in my previous job on the east coast, but nothing more than that. Clearly this had all the earmarks of a tremendously important story. It was a fearful time. People were dying. The nation’s blood supply was somehow at risk. There was an international race to find the cause and, hopefully, some way to treat this terrible disease and save countless lives.
The kind of story a reporter yearns to cover.
But at the center of it was science. Significant, because not too many years earlier I was the stupidest high school biology student in the history of public education. No joke. Two weeks before graduation I still had an “incomplete” for sophomore biology. Only through the good graces of my biology teacher, who gave me an oral exam, during which he fed me the answers to his questions, was I able to graduate.
So the science of the AIDS “story” stared me in the face –- and scared me. Continue reading
(Jeff Swenson/Getty Images)
By Chris Richard
Studies have linked air pollution exposure, especially exposure to pollution from congested roadways, with serious health conditions ranging from asthma, to heart disease, to cancer, to low birth weight.
Now a research team at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine has received funding to investigate whether children living near busy roadways are more prone to obesity.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $7.8 million to the medical school’s Southern California Children’s Environmental Health Center to fund research by over the next five years.
Scientists will conduct new studies and analyze existing data on whether and how roadway pollution may make children obese. They’ll also study metabolic abnormalities linked to air pollution from roads that might increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Continue reading
Former foster youth, Kawanzza Byrd, is gaining culinary skills and tips on healthy eating through a youth program called GROW Oakland. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: Project GROW Oakland trains young people to become chefs — to build job skills and healthy eating habits. Some youth are on probation; while others are — or were — in the foster care system. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 19-year-old Kawanzza Byrd, a former foster youth, says the program has changed the way she eats.
By: Kawanzza Byrd
When you’re in foster care, you really have no control over what you eat. With my partner when she was in foster care, they ate a lot of fast food. Every night. The foster mom, she didn’t cook: She just bought pizza. She bought hot pockets. Continue reading
Sharon Wilson, 53, picks up her weekly allotment of produce from the AIDS Project of the East Bay. Wilson, who has HIV, says without help, she couldn’t afford to buy fresh vegetables. (Angela Hart/KQED)
By Angela Hart
Several times each week, Sharon Wilson, a 53-year-old HIV-positive retired caregiver, takes an hour-long bus ride from her Berkeley home to her clinic in downtown Oakland. Wilson doesn’t mind making the trip, because she says the care she has received there since her diagnosis has saved her life.
Wilson says multiple chronic diseases, including HIV, have made it impossible for her to work. Ensuing financial struggles make managing her disease increasingly difficult.
“I can’t afford healthy food and all the medications I need to take,” Wilson said as she described her strict antiretroviral drug regimen. “It’s not easy to learn a new way of living. I take a handful of pills when I wake up in the morning, a handful of pills with lunch, and another handful before I go to bed.”
For people like Wilson, the AIDS Project of the East Bay — one of Alameda County’s six HIV specialty clinics — is a place of refuge. There, Wilson has received primary care for her HIV and specialty care since 2006. She’s been referred to Oakland’s Highland Hospital multiple times to treat other chronic conditions, including congestive heart failure and arthritis. Continue reading
California Air Resources Board field representative Barry Pratt (right) questions Canadian trucker Henry Gustof, left, as a CARB team inspects trucks for compliance with clean air rules at a weighing station north of Los Angeles. Gustof’s engine met CARB standards. (Chris Richard/KQED)
By Chris Richard
Every time Bloomington dump truck operator Ruben Garcia pulls up at a job site, he finds himself caught in the same conversation: “What are you going to do next year?”
Not everyone has a good answer.
“If we can clean up these fleets, then we will definitely have a positive impact on public health.”
Truckers in the Port of Oakland grabbed headlines recently
when they held a demonstration at Oakland City Hall, demanding an extension to the January 1st
deadline to upgrade their engines to meet California pollution standards
. They also want additional state subsidies to help them meet the cost. Meanwhile, general freight and construction truck drivers face a separate January deadline to start replacing their vehicles or install filters that can cost as much as a second-hand truck. That rule applies to most of the big rigs on the state’s roads. It’s an especially heavy burden for small operators.
“It’s like telling the person who works in an office that they’ve got to tear down the office because the outside of the office building doesn’t work well with the environment.” he said. “Those trucks are our offices. That’s how we make our living.” Continue reading
Isabel Solorio (left) and Carrie Bonner talk about water issues outside the Lanare Community Center. (Alice Daniel/KQED)
By Alice Daniel, KQED
There are no streetlights here in Lanare, no sidewalks, no sewer system in this tiny, rural enclave of 600 smack dab in the middle of farming country in the Central Valley.
There is a community center and on this night, many locals are here dancing and eating.
“Tonight I make salad and my friend makes beans, and I make beans so just, you know, everybody help,” said Isabel Solorio.
Many people stopped drinking the tap water years ago because it has high levels of arsenic.
Solorio is the president of a local group that holds fundraisers twice a year to support the community center. The group also advocates for clean drinking water –- something Lanare doesn’t have. Lanare did not come out of an organized planning process. Like many unincorporated communities in the San Joaquin Valley, the town arose out of the fields surrounding it.
“It was a lot of labor camps, they call them,” said Carrie Bonner, a Lanare resident still tall and strong at 89. “Cotton chopping, picking and cutting grapes. … Whatever season it was, that’s what they would do.” Continue reading
Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Kaitlyn Pintor, whose nerve disorder causes pain so severe that she’s often felt like her body has been set on fire. When the pain started nearly a decade ago, Pintor was a single mother of two. She still found time to organize support groups for people who share her chronic pain disorder. Now, a new medication has made her chronic pain more manageable. Pintor speaks to us from HoofBeats riding school in Sonoma County, where she goes for horse therapy. Reporter: Ryder Diaz.
By Kaitlyn Pintor
In 2004, I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy after an ankle sprain. I had burning pain that ended up spreading throughout my body, from head to toe.
It literally feels like you’ve been set on fire and you can’t turn the fire down. Just water brushing over my skin would cause intense flame.
The normal comforts don’t comfort you. You can’t wrap yourself in a blanket. You can’t go soak in the sun. Sounds bother you. Or the laughter of your children may turn your pain up. Continue reading
Filipino Youth Coalition presents information about Covered California in an event at the Milpitas Library. (Vanessa Ochavillo/Peninsula Press)
By Vanessa Ochavillo, Peninsula Press
Filipino health advocates in the Bay Area are working overtime to educate the community about the Affordable Care Act and to enroll as many people as possible in California’s health insurance online marketplace before the Dec. 15 deadline.
The rollout of the state’s new exchange was accompanied by an ambitious outreach program that awarded grants to community organizations that would use their “trusted relationships” to get target populations enrolled.
“We get so many calls to make presentations, and we can only do so much. The resources are so limited.”
But a lack of adequate funding and manpower has made it difficult to educate eligible, uninsured Filipinos about Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.
The problems in the Filipino community — the largest Asian minority in California — come as uninsured Americans across the country struggle to enroll in a plan because of widespread technical problems with the federally-run HealthCare.gov website. California residents can sign up for a plan via a separate website run by Covered California which has encountered some glitches but not on the scale that the federal website has seen. Continue reading
By Nancy Shute, NPR
California has a new law that’s supposed to get more of the state’s children vaccinated against measles, whooping cough and other infectious diseases.
But the law has taken a strange turn on its way to being put into action, one that may instead make it easier for parents to exempt their children from required vaccinations.
In recent years the number of parents who request so-called personal belief exemptions from vaccines has been rising. It’s gotten to the point that public health officials fear that there could be disease outbreaks in parts of California. Same goes for other states where exemption rates are high.
On Sept. 20, 2012, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a bill aimed at boosting childhood immunization rates. His signing letter included these instructions: Continue reading