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Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

High-risk childbirths for celebrity mothers like tennis star Serena Williams and performer Beyonce are shining a light on a health story that’s historically flown under the radar: Childbirth is risky for women, particularly women of color. Williams, Beyonce and their babies all survived, but the U.S. does have the one of highest rates of mothers dying in childbirth of any developed country. Alarmingly, that rate rose 65 percent from 2006-2013.

Kern County District Attorney's Office

In the last 10 days, Bakersfield has been the site of two high-profile attacks: In one, a man and a woman were stabbed in a Starbucks; a few days later, another man gunned down his ex-wife and four other people in east Bakersfield before turning the gun on himself. On their face, these two crimes don’t have a lot in common; but at the root of both was domestic violence, which in 2017 was responsible for almost 7,000 calls for help in Kern County alone.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Local hospitals in three San Joaquin Valley communities are making big plans for the future, including an expansion, a reopening, and a bankruptcy filing.

In Kern County, Adventist Health has announced plans to build a new hospital in Northwest Bakersfield. The facility will be built near the intersection of Coffee and Brimhall Road, adjacent to the development known as the Bakersfield Commons. It’s unknown when construction on the new facility might begin. Adventist Health currently operates a hospital in downtown Bakersfield on Chester Avenue.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at how those who work in health care are at increased risk of workplace violence. In the next installment of our series, Part of the Job, we see that although hospitals in the Valley have preventive measures in place, some are finding that it’s not until an incident happens that a facility knows what more to improve.  

 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It was only a few weeks ago that wildfires drove particle pollution to dangerously high levels in many parts of the San Joaquin Valley and mountain areas, and it could happen again before wildfire season is over. Particulate matter, also known as PM, is a major health risk: It’s known to cause asthma attacks and other respiratory flare-ups in the short term, and exposure over the long term has been associated with reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems.

Community Water Center

California’s legislative session ended last week, and with it, the hopes for a statewide pool of money that would have supported drinking water projects.

It was called the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, and it would have been available for disadvantaged communities in need of water cleanup projects. The fund would have been sourced by fees on residential water bills and on some agricultural producers.

But the two bills that set the framework for the fund died in the state assembly last week as California’s legislative deadline passed by.

A much-anticipated plan to reduce particulate matter in the San Joaquin Valley is now up for public comment.

After years of revisions, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is seeking public comment on its latest plan to reduce PM2.5, a harmful pollutant that causes respiratory problems and is increasingly being linked to other serious health conditions.

Fresno’s Veterans Affairs medical center has announced it will be expanding to a new campus in Clovis.

The VA Central California Health Care System has bought nine acres of property off of Highway 168, near Clovis Community Medical Center and the soon-to-be medical school at California Health Sciences University.

Rudy Salas

Governor Brown has signed into law two bills related to the disease valley fever, both written by Kern County Assemblymember Rudy Salas.

The laws both aim to streamline the disease’s reporting guidelines, which until now have been inconsistent over time and among health agencies throughout the state.

One of the laws institutes a reporting deadline for the state public health department to collect data on cases. The other allows cases to be confirmed using blood tests only, without the need for a clinical diagnosis.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California’s legislative session ends on Friday, which means it’s a marathon week in Sacramento as state lawmakers rush to pass bills and get them onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk to be signed into law—or else wait until 2019 to reintroduce their legislation and begin the process all over again.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

  It’s probably obvious that hospitals can be high stress environments, and it’s not just patients who can get agitated and upset. Sometimes it’s also co-workers. Last week, we heard about how some see tolerating violence in health care as part of the job. In the latest installment in our series Part Of The Job, we look at how health care educators have been trying to change that culture of harassment and violence before their students reach the workforce.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Over the course of three months in 2017, over two thousand incidents of workplace violence in health care were reported in California. That comes out to about an incident happening at every facility every other week, or over twenty incidents across the state a day. Some experts would say that number is probably low, because they suspect the issue is underreported, for a variety of reasons.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

In our 2017 series Contaminated, we told the stories of communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley struggling to access safe drinking water. Since then, the state has begun regulating a new drinking water contaminant. And though that regulation represents increased accountability, it brings financial challenges to some communities—and many are turning to the courts to help pay for water treatment. We begin this story in Del Rey, an unincorporated community in central Fresno County.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

We’re at the start of another school year. And that means more than just a focus on basic academic skills. In Fresno County there’s a new push to address mental health and wellbeing. It’s part of a five year, $111 million dollar campaign that’s called “All 4 Youth” that’s bringing together the county’s office of education and the behavioral health department.

For Valley Fever Survivors, A Growing Need: Wigs

Aug 8, 2018
Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

In a small boutique in downtown Bakersfield, Brenda Blanton donned a styling gown and settled into a salon chair facing a mirror. Shop owner Kelly Giblin approached, not carrying scissors or a curling iron, but a small hairpiece resembling a dirty blonde bob with dark roots. “This is an amazing hairpiece,” Giblin said excitedly, clipping it onto Blanton’s thinning, shoulder-length hair. “We can put it on, trim it in, and it will blend with your hair and no one will ever now.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new bill in congress is aimed at preventing the fungal disease valley fever that’s endemic to Central and Southern California. 

The so-called FORWARD Act, introduced by Bakersfield Congressman and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, would establish a national valley fever working group and would award grants to entities researching the disease.

UCSF Fresno

For years, local medical and political leaders have been calling for a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley. Now the long-running UCSF Fresno graduate medical education program is getting a boost towards that goal. The university has announced that it is upgrading the Fresno program’s status to that of an official branch campus of UCSF. As Dean Michael Peterson told Valley Public Radio, the move is an evolution of the San Joaquin Valley PRIME medical education program, which had been run by UCSF, UC Davis and UC Merced.

UC Merced

There’s new research out from scientists at UC Merced that could shed new light on the roots of autoimmune diseases, and also holds promise for future cancer treatments. The study in The Journal of Immunology looks at so-called “misbehaving” killer immune cells. It builds upon research that took place in the late 1990’s but went largely overlooked since then. We spoke with UC Merced graduate student Kristen Valentine and UC Merced Professor Katrina Hoyer.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

Buried in California’s new $201 billion budget is important news for those with a disease that affects many here in Central California: $8 million in funding for valley fever research and awareness. For several years we’ve been reporting about this airborne fungal disease which is endemic to arid regions of the U.S. Southwest.  To learn more about what the new funding means and where it's going, and to get an update on the latest data on infections in 2018, we spoke to Valley Public Radio's Kerry Klein on Valley Edition. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

When buying a house, everyone’s motivation is different—maybe it’s the desire to start a family, or to start a new job in a new city. Today, we report on a people who move out of the Valley for an entirely different reason—one that’s related to the Valley’s ozone concentrations, which have been creeping higher as the temperature has risen.

Judy Eymann-Taylor is packing. She picks up a gold picture frame leaning against a wall and gingerly cushions it in bubble wrap. “This is a photo that's almost 40 years old now,” she says.

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