San Joaquin Valley

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Federal Health Officials to Launch Study of Valley Fever

A bull kicks up dust on a farm south of Bakersfield. Valley fever spores are carried by the wind in the dry, desert southwest, including California's Central Valley. (David McNew/Getty Images)

A bull kicks up dust on a farm south of Bakersfield. Valley fever spores are carried by the wind in the dry, desert southwest, including California’s Central Valley. (David McNew/Getty Images)

By Rachel Cook, Reporting on Health Collaborative

The leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health announced they will launch a clinical trial to get a better understanding of how to treat valley fever. The announcement was made Monday as part of a two-day symposium on valley fever being held in Bakersfield.

The randomized control trial will cost millions of dollars and involve roughly 1,000 patients, and it could help determine the best practices for treating the fungal infection.

“It will take some time to mount this trial, to plan it, to put it forward,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH. “But I just want to assure all of you from this part of California that we’re serious about trying to get some of those answers even in the face of difficult budget times,” Collins said.

California’s San Joaquin Valley is a valley fever hot spot.

“What we’ve seen is a steady increase in the number of diagnosed cases of valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC. “We don’t know why that’s happened and there’s a lot that we need to learn.”

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Recruiting – and Retaining – Doctors in California’s San Joaquin Valley

Maureen Williams (L) seen here with her daughter Carol Baskin, is 95 years old. Williams recently moved away from Firebaugh, but she returns to see Dr. Oscar Sablan. "He saved my life several times," she says. (Photo: Lisa Morehouse)

Maureen Williams is 95 years old (seen with her daughter Carol Baskin) moved away from Firebaugh recently to be closer to family, but she returns to see Dr. Oscar Sablan. “He saved my life several times,” she says. (Photo: Lisa Morehouse)

By Lisa Morehouse

In 1999, in the tiny town of Five Points, 29 farmworkers accidentally entered a field that had just been treated with dangerous organophosphate insecticides. They started vomiting. The labor contractor in charge bypassed local hospitals and brought the crew to his own doctors 50 miles away in the town of Firebaugh. He simply trusted Marcia and Oscar Sablan more.

“We have seen a lot of other cases,” said Oscar Sablan, an internist, “and so we were familiar with the symptoms and we knew what to do.”

They had lots of atropine on hand, a drug used to treat poison victims if they go into respiratory or cardiac arrest. The farmworkers stripped and lined up to rinse the pesticides off in the clinic’s shower, built just for this type of incident. But with so many patients, Oscar Sablan had to recruit help.

“The firemen in town were able to get a kiddie pool and at least wash the people down,” he said.

Firebaugh is surrounded by crops, and the Sablans estimate that 75 percent of their patients work in the fields, like that labor contractor.

Marcia Sablan, who specializes in family medicine, explained, “He knew he could come here. He knew that we would take care of him, so be brought those 29 people over here.”

Patients have relied on the Sablans and the Sablan Medical Clinic for more than 30 years, since the couple moved to Firebaugh as young physicians in the National Health Service Corps. They say they wanted to practice where they were needed. Continue reading

Community Activists Work to Fight Obesity in the San Joaquin Valley

Farmworkers in Los Banos, CA. Many Central Valley farmworkers lack access to buy the produce they harvest. (Vinnee Tong/KQED)

Farmworkers in Los Banos, CA. Many Central Valley farmworkers lack access to buy the produce they harvest. (Vinnee Tong/KQED)

 

By Alice Daniel, California Healthline

The town of Ceres, near Modesto, is like many small towns in the San Joaquin Valley. The farmworkers who pick the fruits, nuts and vegetables or work in the canneries often don’t have convenient ways to buy the produce they harvest. The lower-income side of town doesn’t have a grocery store, but there’s plenty of fast food. Residents say the tap water is cloudy and smells funny. At the convenience store, bottled soda is cheaper than bottled water.

It’s a story that can be told time and again in the small towns and unincorporated areas that dot the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley. It’s a story the advocates at the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Project, or CCROPP, are trying to rewrite.

“We are not your typical obesity prevention program,” said Brandie Banks-Bey, with CCROPP. “We focus our efforts on environmental and policy changes that support healthy eating.”

Partnerships Address Problems Regionally

CCROPP partners with community organizations and also trains local residents to become more civically engaged through programs such as Powerful People Building Leadership for Healthy Communities. Continue reading