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
(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
By Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR
Scientists — and anyone who lives with a canine — know that dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices. They listen for whether our tone is friendly or mean, how the pitch goes up or down and even the rhythms in our speech.
But what about the meaning of the words we say?
Sure, a few studies have reported on super smart dogs that know hundreds of words. And Chaser, a border collie in South Carolina, even learned 1,022 nouns and commands to go with them.
But otherwise, there’s little evidence that dogs differentiate between speech with meaningful words from sounds that contain only inflections, says neurobiologist Attila Andics, at the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest. Continue reading
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
By Irene Noguchi
It seems almost unbelievable, but medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer. That’s according to an analysis from Journal of Patient Safety. Could the key to change be in better communication? A new study from UC San Francisco and eight other institutions, says yes. Researchers found that improving communication between health providers can reduce patient injuries from medical errors by 30 percent.
The team found that a highly risky period was when patients are transferred or “handed off” between medical providers. Critical information gets passed between doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
When there’s a shift change or a patient moves to another hospital, “there’s an opportunity for communication failure,” says Daniel West, professor of pediatrics and vice-chair at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Continue reading
A menu board in New York City, the first city to require calories on chain restaurant menus. (Kevin Harber/Flickr)
Washington (AP) — Counting your calories will become easier under new government rules requiring chain restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores — and even movie theaters, amusement parks and vending machines — to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus.
The Food and Drug Administration plans to announce the long-delayed rules on Tuesday. The regulations will apply to businesses with 20 or more locations and they will be given until November 2015 to comply.
The idea is that people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger at a chain restaurant, hot dog at a gas station or large popcorn at the movie theater if they know that it has hundreds of calories. Beverages are included, and alcohol will be labeled if drinks are listed on the menu. Continue reading
The 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
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
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
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy Thursday. ( Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
California undocumented immigrants who are eligible for deferred deportation under President Obama’s executive action are expected to be eligible for Medi-Cal, as long as they meet income guidelines, advocates said Thursday.
Medi-Cal is the state’s health insurance program for people who are low income.
Under federal law, these immigrants are not eligible for other benefits of the Affordable Care Act, including subsidies on the Covered California exchange. Continue reading