Community Health

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

RECENT POSTS

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

Marin School District Considers Endorsing Ban of Vaccine ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: Carl Krawitt)

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: the Krawitt family)

Update Feb. 10, 10:00pm: The board of the Reed Union School District voted 4-1 to “encourage the state of California” to eliminate the personal belief exemption.

Original post:

As first reported on State of Health, the face of the vaccine debate in southern Marin’s small Reed Union School District is Rhett Krawitt. He’s a first grader at Reed Elementary in Tiburon. Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 and went through three years of chemotherapy.

Rhett is in remission now, but cannot yet be vaccinated, for medical reasons. A small percentage of school children statewide — 0.19 percent — have such medical exemptions. They depend on everyone around them being vaccinated to protect them from disease. This community protection is called herd immunity.

But Marin County has a much higher rate of “personal belief exemptions” — a way for parents to lawfully refuse vaccines on behalf of their children.

In large part because of prodding from Rhett’s parents, the district’s board at its regular meeting tonight will consider whether to formally endorse a new bill that would abolish the personal belief exemption in California. Continue reading

Licensed Midwife Opens Birth Center in Fresno

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

By Alice Daniel, CaliforniaHealthline

Even as licensed midwife Detrah Hele explained why she recently opened a birth center in Fresno, she was in her car heading to a client’s home in Visalia.

Her client was a labor and delivery nurse who had already had two home births and was about to have a third one under Hele’s supervision. Hele has caught hundreds of babies since she got her license 10 years ago. She said it had been a dream of hers to establish a place where pregnant women could give birth outside a hospital setting.

After months of searching, she found the right property in downtown Fresno, a home on the historic register that was most recently the office of the Fresno Women’s Medical Group. She dealt with all the necessary city codes and opened The Birth Place in October 2014. It is the only birth center in the San Joaquin Valley. Another licensed midwife, Alex DePastene, works with her. Continue reading

Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

Continue reading

Mental Health ‘Warm Line’ Helps Prevent Crises With Good Listening

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Editor’s note: a warm line is a place where people struggling with mental illness, but not in an acute state of crisis, can call and talk to a trained counselor as long as they need to. As part our community health series Vital Signs, we caught up with Daisy Matthias, a counselor at San Francisco’s new warm line, in between phone calls.

By Daisy Matthias

The majority of the people call about anxiety, depression, loneliness, or even stress.

We’ll be there for as long as you need us. We don’t have a time limit. And other warm lines sometimes will have a time limit of 20 minutes, 30 minutes.

Every counselor has a history of dealing with mental health. Continue reading

New Vaccination Bill Would End ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

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 Fenit Nirappil
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require parents to vaccinate all school children unless a child’s health is in danger, joining only two other states with such stringent restrictions.

Parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to school under a proposal introduced Wednesday after dozens of people have fallen ill from a measles outbreak that started in late December at Disneyland.

Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states with such strict vaccine rules, though the California bill’s chief author said he would consider including a religious exemption, as allowed now. Continue reading

Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left). (Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

By Jon Hamilton, NPR

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”

That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading

Got P.E.? Settlement Says Schools Must Prove They Provide It

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

As schools tout the importance of exercise in an era of childhood obesity, a California parent and his lawyer have agreed to a settlement with dozens of districts across California that will force elementary schools to prove they are providing at least the minimum amount of physical education required by state law.

Now there’s another lawsuit against Oakland Unified and other districts.

“We think it’s a huge accomplishment and it’s going to benefit public health in California,” said attorney Donald Driscoll, who represents Alameda parent Marc Babin and the advocacy group Cal200 in a 2013 lawsuit that alleges 37 school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, the largest district in the state, are out of compliance with state physical education law.

The districts, which educate more than 20 percent of elementary students grades 1 through 6 statewide, have agreed to a settlement that requires elementary school teachers to publicly document how many minutes of physical education students receive, according to lawyers involved in the case. Continue reading

California Ranks Dead Last in Spending on Diabetes Prevention

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News

California spends less per person than any state on diabetes prevention programs, even as one in 12 California adults is estimated to suffer from the chronic disease, according to a new report from the California state auditor.

Using only federal grants, California spent just 3 cents per person on diabetes prevention in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, compared with New York’s 42 cents per person in state and federal money that year, the report noted.

No state funding is available for diabetes prevention in California, although the Department of Public Health has solicited the federal grants for programs in some counties, according to the report. The audit takes the agency to task for not doing more. Continue reading