Community Health

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

RECENT POSTS

Rural Doctor Launches Start-Up to Ease Pain of Dying Patients

Palliative medicine physician Michael Fratkin gets off a plane after visiting a patient on the Hoopa Valley Native American reservation. He wants to launch a start-up to support this kind of work. (April Dembosky/KQED)

Palliative medicine physician Michael Fratkin gets off a plane after visiting a patient on the Hoopa Valley Native American reservation. He wants to launch a start-up to support this kind of work. (April Dembosky/KQED)

This isn’t Michael Fratkin’s typical commute.

“It’s an old plane. Her name’s ‘Thumper,’” says pilot Mark Harris, as he revs the engine of the tiny 1957 Cessna 182. “Clear prop!”

“After the bad news, but before death, there’s a lot to be done.”    

It’s a 30 minute flight from our starting point in Eureka to the Hoopa Valley Native American reservation where Dr. Fratkin’s going to visit a man named Paul James. He’s dying of liver cancer.

“A good number of patients in my practice are cared for in communities that have no access to hospice services,” Fratkin says, shouting over the voices on the plane’s intercom.

Fratkin is a palliative medicine physician. He’s the guy who comes in when the cancer doctors first deliver a serious diagnosis. Continue reading

Contra Costa Supervisors Approve Plan to Help Doctors Medical Center

Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors passed two new financial measures Tuesday providing last-minute help to embattled Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo.

The county voted to delay the hospital’s $3 million property tax payment. If DMC can come up with enough to sustain itself for the next three years, the board will permanently waive $9 million in future repayments.

“What the county’s doing today is, it’s not committing 100 percent,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, “it’s saying these other pieces have to fall into place. If this comes together, we’re in.” Continue reading

In Mexico, People Drinking Less Soda After New Tax

Armando Huerta was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes two years ago. He says he's since cut out soda and fried foods. (Katie Schoolov)

Armando Huerta was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes two years ago. He says he’s since cut out soda and fried foods. (Katie Schoolov)

By Jill Replogle

Clinic number 27 in Tijuana is the biggest family medicine clinic in Mexico. A full 30 percent of workers— and their families — in this border city come here when they have a cold or joint pain. But the most common ailments, says clinic director Alonso Perez, are related to diabetes.

“That’s basically one of the critical diseases we have here,” Perez said. “Obesity and diabetes are rising, their complications are rising, and every day it’s from younger patients.”

Thirty percent of Mexico’s schoolchildren and 70 percent of adults are overweight or obese. In recent years, the country has competed with the U.S. for the unflattering title of fattest country in the world. Continue reading

FDA Considers Lifting Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Mina Kim and Peter Shuler

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider Tuesday lifting a 31-year-old ban on blood donations from gay men.

Originally fueled by fear and little understanding of AIDS, federal regulators in 1983 banned donations from men who have sex with men. Now a federal health advisory committee recommends that the FDA ease that ban, saying that men who have not had sex with another man for a year may donate blood.

Hank Greely is a professor of law and medicine at Stanford and directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences. He reminded listeners of how little we knew about AIDS when the ban was first put in place. “No one really knew what caused AIDS” at that time, he said. “They did know people were getting the disease from transfusions, and that gay men were one of the groups that had the highest incidence of the disease.” Continue reading

Senator to Reintroduce Health Insurance Bill for Undocumented Immigrants

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s the beginning of the new legislative session in Sacramento, and one lawmaker isn’t wasting time. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) is expected to reintroduce a bill Monday to extend health insurance to all undocumented immigrants.

The Health For All Act would do two things for undocumented immigrants: extend Medi-Cal coverage to those who are low income and create a new marketplace to mirror Covered California, where those with incomes 138-400 percent of poverty could purchase subsidized health insurance.

Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any Obamacare benefits, so they cannot use the existing Covered California exchange. Continue reading

Statewide Program Delights Schoolkids with California-Grown Produce

(David Gorn/KQED)

California-grown persimmons and pears on the lunch line in Elk Grove. (David Gorn/KQED)

By David Gorn

At Elk Grove Elementary School, just outside Sacramento, it’s lunchtime and kids are doing what kids do when they’re let loose from the classroom: running around, laughing and generally having fun.

Tying farm to school so children understand the connection.

But this day at Elk Grove has a little extra charge to it. It’s “California Thursday,” a program that brings locally-grown food into school lunch rooms. And more.

Out on the playground, there’s a lottery wheel going. Someone is running around in a carrot suit. Volunteer Katie O’Malley, a student from UC Davis, mans the almond-butter booth: whole almonds go in the top and come out below in a thick paste — sending 9-year-olds into fits of giggles.

And that’s the point, O’Malley said, making food fun. Continue reading

Older Californians’ Outlook for Long Term Care

old and young handsThe way the medical system talks about aging often gets it all wrong.

That’s what Bruce Chernof, a geriatric physician and head of The Scan Foundation in Los Angeles, wants you to know.

“People define themselves by the function they retain, not the function they’ve lost,” he says.

That means there’s a huge disjoint between the words older Americans use most frequently to describe the kind of care they want in later life (words like “choice,” “independence,” “dignity”) and the most common words doctors rely on (“palliative care,” “geriatrics,” “advanced directive,” “donut hole”). Continue reading

Out of Prison — and Hungry

Aus Jarrar was released from an eleven-year prison sentence with $200. He's got an internship as a drug and alcohol counselor, but until he starts to earn a wage he's relying on charity food-- he doesn't qualify for food stamps.

Aous Jarrar was released from prison after an 11-year sentence with $200. He has an internship as a drug and alcohol counselor, but because he doesn’t qualify for food stamps, he is relying on charity food. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

Editor’s note: For nearly two decades, people with drug-related felonies were banned for life from getting food stamps, but that’s all changing now. Starting April 15, thousands of former inmates will be eligible for food stamps and other public benefits.

Until then, how do you feed yourself when you get out of prison with no money and little help? As part of our health series Vital Signs, we hear from Aous Jarrar. He was recently released from prison after serving an 11-year sentence for bank robbery. Now, without food stamps, he’s one charity meal away from hunger. We caught up with him as he rushed around downtown Oakland looking for food.

By Aous Jarrar

Walking by that restaurant back there, I smelled some barbecue. Somebody’s really cooking. You know the funny thing? Since I got out, I’ve been really full maybe three times.

It was a shock to me the morning I woke up out here that my breakfast wasn’t ready. I was in prison for a total of 11 years. I took breakfast for granted.

I’m Palestinian. I’m not a citizen so I don’t qualify for food stamps.

The prison system, they give us $200 to leave with. I had no clothes, and I have no food. So I had to make the choice: do I want look professional, so I can get a job? Or do I want to eat? Continue reading

Cooking Class Shows Ex-Cons How to Shop and Cook on a Budget

Staff from Transitions Housing Clinic, a health center for former inmates, gathered in San Francisco to learn to cook on a budget with Chef Hollie Greene. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

Staff from the Transitions Clinic, a nationwide network of health clinics for former inmates, gathered in San Francisco to learn to cook on a budget. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

The chef has thrown down the challenge. There are five teams, ten people each, that must make their own version of veggie chili. Juanita Alvarado stirs the secret ingredient into the pot for Team 1. They call themselves the SuperHots.

“Let’s let that caramelize,” she says, tapping the wooden spoon on the edge of the saucepan.

This simmering pot of fresh black beans, zucchini, and carrots is a far cry from what Alvarado ate when she was in prison. Late nights in the bunks, inmates would pool their goods from the commissary to make a prison concoction called The Spread.

“It’s a ramen noodle. It consists of pickle juice, tuna, Velveeta cheese. Sausages, hot chips, some hot sauce, pork rinds, mayonnaise,” she says.

Then they mixed it all together and cooked it – sort of. Continue reading

San Diego Group Has Fun ‘Impact’ on Young Adults with Mental Illness

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults ten years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults 10 years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

The National Institute of Mental Health says about one in five young adults has a diagnosable mental illness.

It’s not uncommon for young people with mental health issues to withdraw from others and to isolate themselves. That can make their situation worse.

A group in San Diego has made it their mission to encourage young adults with mental illness to get out of their shell, make friends and have a good time.

The group is operated by young people. Continue reading