April is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) awareness month and according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) approximately 10%-15% of the world suffer from it; many go undiagnosed and are unaware.  Individuals with IBS report that their IBS was diagnosed six years after they started experiencing their first symptoms. IBS is a chronic condition, characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or other gastrointestinal disturbance. Because the brain regulates digestion and other gastrointestinal tasks, the disorder is sometimes referred to as a brain-gut disorder.
Although 10%-15% of the world population may not seem significant, the percentage amounts to between 25 and 45 million people. While IBS can affect either gender or age group, it has been documented that two thirds of IBS sufferers are women, and likely under the age of fifty.
While IBS is not directly associated with a higher risk of contracting other diseases or disorders, a lower quality of life and economic burden makes IBS an oppressive condition for sufferers. Symptoms arise unpredictably, making dealing with the symptoms debilitating, embarrassing and difficult to manage. Imagine experiencing diarrhea, gas, or bloating in the middle of an importing meeting or going on dates and worrying about which foods to avoid in hopes of decreasing chances of a flare up. The emotional toll of worrying and being uncomfortable can deprive an individual from enjoying otherwise pleasant activities. IBS can make traveling, pregnancy, intimate relationships, and experiencing college life challenging, stressful, and overwhelming. The economic cost of work absenteeism, medical costs and other cost to society tallies up to $21 billion each year. A study conducted by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that depression and anxiety disorders among individuals with IBS is prevalent.
Some may believe that the root cause of IBS is stress, and while stress can act as a trigger for symptoms the root cause of IBS is unknown. There is no evidence to show that diet, demographic factors, stressors, or hormonal changes result in IBS- rather, these are factors that could worsen existing symptoms of IBS. There is no cure for IBS, but treatment is available, and it may help manage symptoms. The type of treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Typically, a provider will recommend that patients begin keeping track of what they eat and logging how it makes them feel. This is a good start to identifying which foods may trigger a flare up. Under the guidance of a provider, individuals with IBS can also try stress and pain management techniques. There are several ongoing studies to help understand IBS, improve treatment options, and to comprehend the role of interpersonal relationships as IBS factors.
It is normal to have diarrhea or constipation occasionally- however if symptoms persist over a long period of time, consult with your provider and avoid self-diagnosing. Only an experienced provider can make an accurate diagnosis. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with IBS, there are resources available to help support, provide tips and guidance at the IFFGD website: https://www.aboutibs.org/living-with-ibs-main/pregnancy-and-ibs.html
Blanca Gutierrez is a program coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
April is the National Minority Health Month in the United States. Although the health care field has come a long way to address health inequities, a new report published this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show that ethnic disparities persist today.  The report highlights significant differences in several reported experiences and clinical care measures with care in which Whites receive favorable treatment over Hispanics, American Indian, Alaska Native, and African Americans. In honor of National Minority Health Month, cardiovascular health disparities will be discussed as well as some innovative approaches to bridging the gap in health care.
What it is Heart Disease?
Heart disease, also known as Coronary heart disease, occurs when arteries (heart veins) become damaged. Heart disease is a serious risk factor and may lead to a heart attack if blood vessels become clogged, blocking oxygen from reaching the heart. Heart disease is one of several different cardiovascular diseases that affect African Americans and Mexican Americans at a disproportionate rate.
Disparities and Risk Factors
A cross-sectional study measured seven health factors and behaviors, commonly referred to as Life’s Simple 7 (LS7), which include: smoking, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, diet, hemoglobin A 1c, and physical activity.  The study finds that the reason for the health disparity decline between African Americans and Whites and Mexican Americans and Whites is not due to minorities health improving, rather, it is due to Whites’ health declining. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity and diabetes.  African Americans suffer from the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the world, and new research suggest that African-Americans may carry a gene that increases their sensitivity to salt. African Americans are also disproportionately affected by obesity. A significant number of minorities reside in food swamps, a term used to describe an area in which there are many fast food restaurants, and junk food, with little access to healthy food. It comes as no surprise that food swamps have been associated with higher obesity rates for populations that reside in these areas. 
Innovative Approach to Heart Disease Treatment
The Colorado Black Health Collaborative (CBHC) Barbershop/Salon Health Outreach Program, is one of a few innovative programs in the United States that decided to tackle new prevention strategies for cardiovascular diseases among African American adults. Studies have shown that African American males have a lower hypertension detection rate, partly due to males not seeking regular preventative care treatment. Historically, African- American males have experienced heinous maltreatment at the hands of their doctors. From a cultural stance, it is easy to understand why there is an increase in medical mistrust for African Americans and why some may not seek medical treatment. CBHC partnered with local Barbershops and Salons to facilitate screenings, health education, and empower the salon patrons to take charge of their health, all occurring in a setting that felt familiar and community oriented for the patrons.
More innovative approaches are needed to bridge the health gap supported by a deep understanding of the cultural and socio-economic barriers and challenges that minorities experience when trying to access health care.
Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
As you stuff one more swimsuit into your luggage in preparation for spring break, consider the following tips for a healthier vacation. Flying can take a toll on your body. Many travelers report experiencing jet lag upon arriving to their destination and once again when returning to work, others complain about leg and foot swelling or catch a cold. With a little preparation you may be able to avoid or decrease the health perils of traveling for a more relaxing vacation.
Reduce jet lag
Your body’s circadian rhythm manages when you feel sleepy or alert by releasing more or less of a sleep hormone called melatonin. When traveling from one time zone to another in a short period of time, your body’s circadian rhythm may not be able to synch with the new time zone. The more drastic the time zone change, the higher probability for jet lag. Night time insomnia, day time sleepiness, upset stomach and mood changes are some of the most common jet lag symptoms. Experiencing jet lag may take away from enjoying your vacation.
Before your departure, slowly adjust your sleep/wake cycle. If you are heading east, go to sleep a bit earlier a few nights before your trip. If you are going west, try sleeping a bit later. Gradually allowing your body to adjust can help you avoid jet lag. Upon arrival, apply some sunscreen and search for the sun. The natural sunlight on your body can decrease the production of melatonin, allowing you to feel alert. At night, avoid screens and other bright lights. The absence of light will signal your body to begin producing more melatonin.
Boost immune system
There are many reasons why people tend to get sick after flying. The environment practically begs for you to get sick. Your lungs are working double time to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the cabin. Several investigations highlight a high number of germs in cabins. Swab tests confirmed pathogenic bacteria on tray tables, and fecal bacteria on TSA bins. Unless you are flying first class, personal space is non-existent, making it problematic if you are sitting near a passenger who is already sick.
Boost up your immune system by consuming vitamin C before your flight. Cells in your body need vitamin C to perform tasks designed to keep you healthy. Wipe down surface areas with anti-bacterial wet wipes to decrease bacteria around your seat. When possible try to select a window seat over a middle aisle seat so that you can reduce your proximity and exposure to other passengers and flight attendants.
Prevent inflammation, swelling
Leg and foot swelling during and immediately after a flight are common, typically due to leg inactivity and cramped spaces. Those who are at an increase risk for blood clots due to a recent surgery or birth control may want to take extra precautions to avoid swelling and always follow their provider’s recommendations. To help decrease your chances of leg and foot swelling wear compression socks during flights, stay hydrated, move your ankles and adhere to any medication prescribed by your doctor to avoid blood clots.
Taking some time to plan today can result in a more enjoyable and healthy vacation. Safe travels!
Blanca Gutierrez is a project coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health
Written by: Blanca Gutierrez, Project Coordinator, Community Clinic Consortium and a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health
February is the national heart health month observance in the USA. Learn more about what heart health is, who is impacted by heart disease, and some steps you can take to maintain good heart health for years to come.
The number one killer for both men and women, in the USA is heart disease . The condition is so wide spread that one in every four deaths that occur can be attributed to heart disease. Most people that think about heart disease may believe it only impacts older adults in their 70s and 80s. This false sense of immunity experienced by some younger adults may encourage some to postpone healthy lifestyle choices. While it is true, that the risk for heart disease greatly increases as a person ages, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states that younger adults suffer from heart disease at an increase rate.
A quick look at some statistics and it is easy to understand why heart disease is common. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor that can lead to heart disease. Those who suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are more likely to fall victim to heart disease. The risk increases for those who have a family health history of heart disease. This can be attributed to similar unhealthy lifestyle choices that are passed down from one generation to the next and through heredity. Knowing your family’s health history can help prepare you to consciously make lifestyle changes to prevent health conditions that run in your family.
Make changes to your diet with the goal of reducing your sodium intake. Salt is a cheap preservative for many canned goods and packaged products. Most of the time, canned foods include a high amount of salt for the sole purpose of extend their shelf life- not necessarily to enhance flavor. The next time you are at the grocery store, read the nutrition labels and opt to buy canned veggies that have no salt added or reduced sodium labels. If you are afraid of losing flavor when reducing salt, consider adding more herbs and spices to your meals. Herbs are not only delicious, they can also boost your immune system, and reduce inflammation. Reducing sodium can decrease high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease .
Smoking greatly contributes to heart disease . The damages of smoking are widespread to every organ of your body, including your heart. Smoking damages blood vessels, through the buildup of plaque in the arteries. The accumulation of this plaque overtime makes it difficult for healthy oxygen rich blood to reach your vital organs, making you susceptible to a heart attack and even death. If you have ever consider quitting, February is the perfect month to do so. For more information and help go to: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/index.html?s_cid=OSH_tips_D9385.
It is important to understand risk factors for heart disease so that you may incorporate healthy habits today, for a healthier tomorrow.
The holidays can be filled with a lot of joy and a lot of stress. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to that stress and may even turn into a serious health ailment, if left untreated. Insomnia is linked to other chronic health conditions, less productivity, and even fatal car crashes. Not sleeping enough is an all too common occurrence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every three adults report not sleeping enough in the United States. Below are some steps you can take tonight, to ensure a better night sleep and a healthier you!
Establish an easy bed time routine.
Have you been missing out on bed time routines because you thought they applied only to children? If you are trying to go to sleep earlier, faster, and stay asleep throughout the night, you should try establishing a simple bed-time routine which can help signal your body that it is time to wind-down and relax. Consider the following routine: half an hour before you plan on going to bed turn off televisions, computers, and don’t use your phone. The blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm and slow down the release of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to help you sleep. If you are not pregnant, try drinking valerian tea which may help you fall asleep faster. Results may appear after two weeks of drinking the tea regularly. Avoid doing strenuous activities before bedtime and instead try a relaxing activity of your choice. This may range from writing in a gratitude journal or nightly reflections, drawing, meditating, or easy yoga/stretching.
Gradually go to sleep earlier each night until you reach your desired bedtime.
It is important to set reachable sleeping goals. If you are accustomed to staying up past one in the morning, and you decide that tonight you will go to sleep at ten o clock, you are setting yourself up to fail. You may end up tossing and turning in bed, feeling frustrated, and may give up on the idea of getting a better night rest. Instead, aim to go to sleep 20 minutes before the time you went to sleep the previous night. Continue doing this until you reach your desired bed time. Combine this technique with the bed time routine, for maximum efficacy.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night avoid looking at the clock. Calculating how long you have been awake or how many more minutes of sleep you have left before you must get up in the morning may only contribute to stress and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead do a relaxing activity and when you begin to feel sleepy again, simply go back to bed.
It is normal to not get enough rest occasionally. Consider these tips and have a good night. If the problem, persist contact your physician.
Written by: Blanca Gutierrez, Project Coordinator, Community Clinic Consortium and a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health
Written by: Blanca Gutierrez
A new proposal published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aims to scare immigrants out of participating in benefit programs and the impact of the proposal will transcend immigrants to affect general public health.
On October 10, 2018, the DHS published a proposal to change the public charge rules. When someone applies to enter the U.S. or when an individual who resides in the U.S. applies to become a legal permanent resident (to get their green card), they must undergo a public charge evaluation by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Public charge is a term used by the USCIS to describe an applicant who is likely to become dependent on the government for subsistence. Any applicant who is deemed a public charge will have their application denied.
The proposed changes would make it more difficult for low income immigrants to obtain their green card or enter the U.S. by including non-cash benefit programs as factors in the public charge determination. Applicants that participate in housing programs, non-emergency Medicaid, and food stamps would have their usage counted against them and would be more likely to be labelled a public charge. The proposed changes also aim to expand who must undergo the evaluation to include those that apply to change the category of their visa and to those who apply to extend their visa. Lastly, the proposal will add heavily weighted negative factors that would count against applicants. Under the proposed changes, not knowing how to speak English fluently may count against the applicant.
Clinics across the nation are receiving calls from their immigrant patients who are desperately holding on to the hope of a green card and requesting to cancel or not renew their membership in benefit programs like Cal-Fresh, Medi-Cal, and WIC out of fear and misconceptions surrounding public charge. Many do not know that WIC, Emergency Medi-Cal and locally funded programs will not be counted negatively for public charge and will disenroll from all benefit programs. Public health experts agree that the chilling effect felt by scared immigrant parents will go on to affect their U.S. born children. Half of U.S. born children are enrolled in the nutrition program, Women Infants and Children (WIC); a program which provides breastfeeding support and baby formula to promote healthy baby weight. Some doctors worry about how they could keep their patients healthy and how they could protect infants, individuals with compromised immune systems, and the elderly, if immigrant patients are too afraid to seek health care and keep up with vaccinations. 
It is important to understand that the proposed changes have not gone into effect yet. Individuals can and should submit a comment opposing changes to public charge at : http://clinicconsortium.org/programs/policy-advocacy/public-charge/ . The DHS must respond to every comment before moving forward with the proposed changes. Those who are concerned about their participation in benefit programs are encouraged to learn more about the changes before deciding to drop benefit programs- remember not all benefit programs will be counted as factors and there may be no benefit in disenrolling from programs before the changes become effective.
Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
It seems like every day there is a new bill proposal, executive order, or proposed budget cut affecting the Affordable Care Act, leaving the public wondering what they need to do this open enrollment period. Here are five things you should know about open enrollment to protect your family and yourself this year.
ACA is still the Law of the Land
While there have been many Affordable Care Act repeal bills none have gained enough votes to pass and be made into law. The ACA is currently still the law of the land across the United States. All eligible individuals are advised to enroll in a health plan through Covered CA.
Health Insurance and Your Taxes
Our current administration has hinted that it may not enforce the tax penalty mandate for those who choose not to sign up for health insurance. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is still upholding the ACA, and has released a statement in October, declaring that it will reject tax returns filed electronically that fail to disclose health insurance information. Those who file their tax return on paper and do not release their health insurance information will be subject to have their refund delayed and will have their processing suspended. Those without health insurance may have to pay the penalty fee if they do not qualify for a hardship exemption. Long story short, the IRS still requires you to provide health insurance information when taxes are due.
Open Enrollment Period Begins Nov 1st and Ends January 31st in California.
Advertisement for open enrollment period has been slashed by 90%, leaving many Americans in the dark about open enrollment dates. Federal open enrollment begins November 1st and ends December 15th. Some states, like California, have expanded their open enrollment period until January 31st . You can apply to medical any time of the year, however, to apply for any other health insurance plan, the deadline is January 31st . Don’t wait, apply today!
CSRs and the Surcharge Applied to Silver Level Tier Health Plans
Currently the administration has decided to not reimburse cost-sharing-reductions to insurers which allowed them to offer reduced cost health plans for those making up to 200% of the federal poverty line. No CSRs results in higher costs for consumers. Many states, including California, have prepared for this by shielding as many Californians as possible from incurring the cost. California placed a surcharge on silver tiered plans, knowing that about 4/5 silver tiered policyholders will qualify to receive financial assistance. As the price for their plan increases, so will the financial assistance they receive, resulting in health plan rates similar to what they paid last year. The remaining 1/5 who earn over 400% of the federal poverty line are not eligible for financial assistance and will incur the full surcharge. Those customers are encouraged to consider different metal tiers as they may be cheaper. Some will even find that gold or platinum plans are cheaper than the silver plans because the only plan being hit by the surcharge is the silver tiered plan.
Free Help Enrolling is Available
If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: Certified Enrollment Counselors are trained every year through Covered CA and work at health centers to offer FREE enrollment assistance. CECs know how to mitigate the marketplace exchange and answer frequently asked questions. So please, don’t feel like you must go at it alone!
Blanca Gutierrez, Project Coordinator, Community Clinic Consortium and a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health
Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
As we roll into the fall, and we begin to settle into the back-to-school routine, let’s remember that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Disparities in Obesity
While the rate of obesity continues to increase, it is important to note that it disproportionately affects minority children and children from low socio-economic status families. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six children and adolescents residing in the United States of America is obese. That means that 18.5% of children are obese. This rate increases to 25.8% for Hispanic children, and to 22% for non-Hispanic black children. Children who are from low income households are more likely to suffer from obesity. Families with a low socio-economic status face several environmental challenges that can increase the risk for obesity and diabetes. Children from low income households are more likely to reside in neighborhoods with a disproportionately high number of fast food restaurants and a disproportionately low number of grocery stores, otherwise known as food desserts. Living in a food dessert means having a longer commute to buy groceries which can add an extra burden for caretakers to provide nutritious meals for their families, especially those who struggle from lack of transportation. In addition, living in a neighborhood with high crime rates can make playing at parks unsafe, resulting in a more sedentary lifestyle.
Alternative ways to decrease the risk for Childhood obesity: Meal Prep and Breast Feeeding
While we can recognize that eating a balanced diet can help folks lose weight, finding the time and energy to prepare a healthy meal every day is a challenge for many families. If you are short on time, a healthy an economically smart idea is to meal prep your meals. On your day off, go to the grocery store and take advantage of bulk sales; remember you will be cooking multiple meals that day. When you get home spend a couple of hours preparing and storing food for the rest of the week. It is easy to find a multitude of meal prep recipes on YouTube. Not a fan of eating the same meal every day? You can also find meal prep recipes which use the same ingredients to create different meals in a short time frame. You will be less likely to stop by a fast food restaurant if you have a prepared meal ready to go for lunch.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding your infant. Babies who are breastfeed have a stronger immune system, have a reduced risk of upset stomach, and experience an increased time of bonding with the mother than formula fed babies. However, few people know that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity in infants- a benefit that can stay within into adulthood. Infants who are formula fed have a higher protein intake which leads to a higher body weight. Researchers believe that infants with a higher body weight are at a higher risk for become overweight and/or obese in childhood. Breast milk has hormones which help regulate a baby’s food intake and may contribute to long-term physiological processes that can help the baby’s risk for obesity to decrease later in life.
As you jump into fall, remember there are steps you can take this National Childhood Obesity observance month to help your child have a bright and healthy future. For more resources go to: https://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/index.html
Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Read about the local impact in Richmond
Read about the state impact on health centers
Read about what is in the budget Congress passed
Reporter Sandra Bermudez from Telemundo Noticias 48 spoke with providers at LifeLong Medical Care to discuss Contra Costa CARES. In this clip, we learn about Anna’s story, and how CARES played a crucial role in her battle with cancer. Click here to watch the video.
Cubiertas Telemundo Contra Costa CARES: La reportera Sandra Bermúdez de Telemundo Noticias 48 habló con los proveedores de LifeLong Medical Care para hablar sobre Contra Costa CARES. En este clip, aprendemos sobre la historia de Anna y sobre cómo CARES desempeñó un papel crucial en su batalla contra el cáncer. Haz click aquí para ver el vídeo.
Reporter Luz Peña from Univision covered the thoughtful testimony of a Contra Costa CARES participant, Corona, at La Clinica de La Raza, Monument. She describes how CARES has helped her through a difficult period. We also hear from Dr. Espiranza Ospino, as she provides expert advise regarding the importance of primary care. Click here to view the video now.
La reportera Luz Peña de Univision cubrió el testimonio reflexivo de un participante de Contra Costa CARES, Corona, en La Clínica de La Raza, Monumento. Ella describe cómo CARES la ha ayudado durante un período difícil. También escuchamos a la Dra. Espiranza Ospino, ya que ella brinda asesoramiento de expertos sobre la importancia de la atención primaria. Haga clic aquí para ver el video ahora.
Hot weekends are around the corner, so let the BBQs, beach trips, and parties begin! While enjoying the sun, remember to take simple steps to protect yourself from harmful ultra violate (UV) rays. These pesky rays can cause more harm to your body than a simple sunburn; overtime they can accelerate the appearance of aging by causing wrinkles and age spots to appear on the skin prematurely. UV Rays can also cause eye cataracts; a clouding of the lens that can impair vision. According to the World Health Organization, prolong exposure to UV rays can lead to a weakened immune system. Those exposed to the rays are unable to keep the Herpes virus under control, which can result in a cold sore breakout. Of course, we all know that UV ray exposure can lead to skin cancers: actinic keratoses, carcinoma, and melanoma. Thankfully, there are multiple affordable products designed to protect against the sun’s UV rays.
Whether it’s gardening outside, a day at the beach, or a summer festival, wearing these products are a must. Hats provide protection for your scalp, hair, and eyes. Anything from a fedora to a cowboy hat will do the trick. Sun glasses are a great accessory and provide valuable eye protection. When purchasing sun glasses, make sure that they have a sticker with the “100% UV protection” label. Even glasses with a darker tint do not guarantee full UV protection. Cover up with linen pants or a maxi skirt this summer. It is no wonder why linen clothes have become a summer staple. Linen is known as the most breathable fabric, making it the ideal clothing material to beat the summer heat. Wearing pants and maxi skirts adds a physical barrier to protect against the sun. Lastly, try to limit your time in the sun. Always look for shade and reapply sunscreen throughout the day. It is important to remember that UV rays can penetrate through clouds and cause sun damage. This means that even on rainy or overcast days, you should wear sunscreen daily- regardless of the weather. Even if you don’t plan on staying out in the sun all day, it may be a good idea to wear sunscreen; remember that sun damage can occur with as little as 15 minutes of exposure.
Wearing makeup infused with SPF alone will not offer enough protection from the sun. Sometimes make-up companies will upcharge consumers by marketing foundations as a 2-1 deal, however you should not buy into the myth that you can skip sunscreen if you have a foundation with SPF. To reap the benefits of the SPF from a foundation with SPF, a person would need to apply a full nickel-sized amount on their face- every two hours. Most people who wear makeup don’t apply that much product and will not reapply their foundation throughout the day. There is nothing wrong with purchasing foundation with SPF, so long as consumers have realistic expectations about the product and apply sunscreen before their makeup.
Aloe Vera to the Rescue
Everyone inevitably experiences at least one sunburn in their life. The best product to provide soothing relief is aloe Vera. This plant has been used for over 6,000 years, tracing back to Egypt- now used world-wide. The clear, gel-like product found inside the leaves can be applied topically onto the affected areas. Aloe Vera products are relatively inexpensive and may work just as well as a live plant.
Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Working families rely on Medicaid to stay healthy & provide their children with access to care. Read this powerful story about one family’s experience.
“All of the healthcare access made available through Medicaid meant that our daughter could be supported in her development and excel. We saw the impact daily, in the ways she developed physically, cognitively and started to achieve various developmental milestones,” says the mom of a child with special health care needs.
Read the full story here.
Many people leaving jail or prison are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, due to expanded eligibility with the Affordable Care Act, providing them with comprehensive health care services. New programs have been created to target their unique needs, and connect them with a primary care medical home and support. In Solano County, La Clínica North Vallejo has a new program to help formerly incarcerated people transition back to the community.
These programs are showing success in helping people return to their communities and avoid costly returns to jail or prison. Changes to the ACA that cut Medicaid programs would be a threat to the monumental gains that have been made.
Alvaro Fuentes, Executive Director of the Community Clinic Consortium, writes about the concerns of community leaders and health care providers in a recent Op-Ed about the West Contra Costa County jail expansion.
“As health care providers and community leaders, we understand the need to provide humane conditions for individuals who are incarcerated. However, we believe it is more prudent to invest in community-based efforts to improve the health and wellness of all residents, not $25 million in construction and more than $5 million annually for running a massive new jail facility,” he writes.
Community health centers lower the cost of children’s primary care by 35%, compared to other providers. Health centers are reducing overall costs, while providing comprehensive, high-quality care. Money is saved, in part, by offering a broad range of outpatient services under one roof or in one visit – thus decreasing fragmentation of care.
The full report, “Community Health Centers Reduce the Costs of Children’s Health Care,” can be accessed here.
As the national debate on health care continues, people go about their daily lives, including being healthy, getting sick, and going to the doctor when needed. In Solano County, a significant part of how residents access health care is through Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is California’s version of the national Medicaid program, which provides low-cost, or no-cost health insurance for over 13 million Californians statewide. This includes low-income families, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people living with disabilities. Additionally, under the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal was expanded to include low-income adults without children. Nearly 4 million non-elderly adults were enrolled under this expansion in California beginning in 2014. Individuals or families who make up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level qualify. This equals up to $16,400 annually for a single adult, or up to $33,600 for a family of four.
In Solano County, Medi-Cal makes a serious impact. Almost 50,000 people, or close to 30% of our community are enrolled in the program. This number is even higher for children. A full 40% of Solano County children have access to healthcare through Medi-Cal. The majority of Medi-Cal recipients are either working, or live in households with a family member who works. Many Medi-Cal enrollees hold low-wage jobs that provide important goods and services that our entire community relies on. These jobs rarely offer health insurance, nor do they pay enough to buy affordable and comprehensive insurance on the private market. Medi-Cal fills this important gap.
Beyond the individual impact, Medi-Cal benefits the larger community. Local hospitals are an example. County-run hospitals are required to provide services to anyone who comes through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay. If someone is uninsured, and are unable to pay their bill, the hospital must cover this loss as uncompensated care. Robust coverage of community members through Medi-Cal reduces the burden on local hospitals, allowing them to expand services, hire staff, and provide better care to the community. A thriving health care system has a positive downstream effect on the local economy. Hospitals contract with an array of goods and services. And the more people who are employed, and community members who are healthy, the more money is spent in local businesses.
Medi-Cal also supports our older adults, as the primary payer of nursing home costs. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of nursing home costs are covered by Medicaid. For low and middle-income families, even those who have retirement savings, these are often spent on basic living expenses, with little left over to pay for care later in life. Medi-Cal ensures that our older community members have access to necessary care.
Medi-Cal is structured in a way that reliably covers people, making the program an important first responder to disasters. Anyone who qualifies for the program receives services when needed, rather than the program having a funding cap, which would limit services, or the number of people who can access them. This is particularly important in the event of an emergency. Whether this is a natural disaster, or a public health crisis, such as the Zika virus, or the opioid epidemic, Medi-Cal is available to provide health coverage to the people who need it most. It may be you, your parents or grandparents, neighbors, or friends, but someone you know most likely has been helped by Medi-Cal. Luckily, Medi-Cal has Solano County covered.
Laura Sheckler is the Community Affairs Manager at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
By: Sarah Wang
Although Covered California’s open enrollment period has ended, if you are uninsured you may be able to apply for health insurance during the special enrollment period. Covered California is our state insurance exchange, created as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). It offers a variety of health insurance plans depending on your needs. Most individuals who qualify for coverage receive federal subsidies to help cover the cost of the plan. In fact, 9 in 10 Californians who enroll are eligible for premium subsidies! Plans are designed to be affordable. You also cannot be denied for having preexisting conditions.
There is much speculation about what will happen to the ACA on a federal level. Recently, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, in an effort to dismantle the ACA. This is the first step in a long and ongoing process, which could result in monumental changes to the health care system. This bill, if enacted, would be devastating for California. It has a disproportionately devastating impact on low-income individuals, and those with pre-existing conditions. There could be a massive reduction in federal investment for Medicaid, which will result in millions losing coverage. Federal subsidies, which many Americans rely on to buy their coverage, would be significantly cut. The bill will move to the Senate next. The Senate will hear testimonies from experts, amend the bill, and then take its own actions. The House and Senate must ultimately reach an agreement on the final version. Changes in health care do not happen overnight. Despite any possible changes in health care at a national level, rest assured – Covered California health plans and financial assistance are locked in for 2017. Covered California remains committed to providing consumers with high quality, affordable health insurance coverage.
It can be hard to prioritize buying health insurance if you and your family are healthy, but it’s important to protect your physical and financial health. Preventive services (including immunizations, health screenings, physicals, etc.) are provided free of charge, regardless of the plan you choose. Enroll now, and join your fellow Californians in having one less thing to worry about!
Even though the open enrollment period has ended, you can still qualify during special enrollment if you have what is called a “Qualifying Life Event” – such as a loss in coverage, birth of a new child, a job change, marriage/divorce, etc. Consumers have 60 days from the date of the event to enroll in a plan or change their existing plan. If 60 days pass and consumers do not sign up, they will have to wait until the next open enrollment period or another qualifying life event. If you are eligible for Medi-Cal, you can enroll at any time.
You may be eligible for coverage during special enrollment if you:
- Lose your health coverage
- Turn 26 and are no longer eligible to stay on your parent’s plan
- Move (for example, if you move to California from another state)
- Change jobs
- Have a new child, or adopt a child
- Get married or divorced
- Become a citizen or are now lawfully present
These are just some examples. Visit www.CoveredCA.com or call 800-300-1506 for more information and to find out if you qualify. You can also get help from Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors at your local community health center, county eligibility workers, and Covered California Certified Insurance Agents. Once you apply, you may receive documents requesting that you verify your qualifying life event.
Enroll today – it’s good for your health and the health of your family!
Sarah Wang is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.
So much in healthcare is changing rapidly these days. With a new administration in the White House, there is much speculation and anticipation about what will happen to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” Regardless of what ultimately happens with the ACA in the upcoming year (and beyond), open enrollment for a health plan is now in effect. Here’s what you should know:
- Enroll now! Open enrollment happens only once a year, and runs through January 31st, 2017. During this time individuals can enroll in health insurance online through Covered California (www.coveredca.com), or through a certified enrollment counselor for the upcoming year. Individuals who enroll by Friday, January 20th will have a coverage start date of February 1, 2017. Plans selected between January 21 and January 31 will have coverage that starts on March 1, 2017. Individuals eligible for Medi-Cal can enroll at any time during the year.
- Your coverage will be stable through 2017 – Your health insurance is a legal contract, so even if you are reading about changes to the ACA in the news, your health insurance rates, benefits, and coverage will stay the same through 2017.
- It’s important – It can be hard to prioritize buying health insurance for you or your family when you’re healthy, but it’s important for protecting your physical and financial health. A 2013 study done by NerdWallet Health found that medical debt is the largest cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Health insurance protects you from unexpected expenses that can arise from accidents and illness.
- Financial help is available – Most people who enroll under Covered California are eligible for significant financial assistance in paying their monthly premium. In fact, 90% of Californians who enroll under Covered California are eligible for premium subsidies! Nearly 50% of consumers can purchase a silver plan for under $100 per month. Silver plans have low co-pays and deductibles. Furthermore, nearly 60% of Californians who receive tax credits can choose a Bronze level plan for less than $10 per month! Bronze level plans include three visits to a primary care provider or a specialist within a year that are not subject to a deductible. Additionally, shopping around for a better plan can pay off. The majority of individuals who are renewing their insurance through Covered California (78%) could pay less for their coverage this year if they switched to the lowest cost plan within the same metal tier. Low income individuals and families may be eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal.
- Preventative care is free – Even if you choose a plan with a higher deductible or co-pay, preventative care (e.g. immunizations, well-child visits, health screenings, etc.) are provided for free, regardless of the plan you choose.
- Small business employers and employees have affordable options too – Covered California also has a small business marketplace that offers affordable options for small businesses to cover their employees.
There may be lots of uncertainty about the future of health care these days, but you don’t need to be uncertain about your coverage for 2017. Enroll, and be in good health!
Laura Sheckler is the Community Affairs Manager at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Join the dialogue on how together, we will strive to Preserve Health Care for All
There is a statewide movement to resist efforts to dismantle our health care systems. Come and learn how we will be a part of this statewide movement to ensure that all residents have life-saving and quality health care.
Speakers include: Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Congressman George Miller (Ret.)
When: January 28, 2017; 10:30am-12:00pm
Where: First Christian Church of Concord (3039 Willow Pass Rd, Concord CA 94519)
By: Sarah Wang
Health means more than health care. Health is affected by a person’s environment, opportunities, and experiences. While health care is an essential component of health, we know that there is a broad range of social, economic, and environmental factors that can support or hinder health outcomes. Factors such as housing, family circumstances, education, and neighborhood conditions and safety play an important role. In fact, 40% of life expectancy and health status is attributable to social and economic factors, 30% to health behaviors, and 10% to the physical environment. Just 20% of life expectancy and health status is attributable to clinical care.
In many cases, it is not just how one lives that can affect health, but where one lives. For example, people living in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods may not have access to healthy foods or safe spaces to exercise and play. Many people experience multiple negative social determinants of health. Population health concerns are created when certain communities are disproportionately affected.
To move away from taking a symptom-based approach to healthcare, it is important to address root causes of poor health. Social determinants complicate the ability of healthcare providers to address patients’ health needs, impacting the scope and intensity of services needed to treat patients. For example, a patient with hypertension who is living in poverty and does not have stable housing is very different from a patient with hypertension without these social concerns. Although most physicians today recognize the importance of addressing a patient’s physical environment and social condition, many still report that they lack the confidence, resources, or time to do so. Health interventions alone — without addressing racism, economic disparities and other social determinants — will not reduce the disparities in health outcomes apparent in our communities.
One group of providers at the forefront of tackling social determinants of health are community health centers. They have a unique approach to care, combining medical and social approaches to care for families and communities. Health centers have been providing primary care and other comprehensive services to the most vulnerable populations in the US since the 1960s, serving those with limited access to health care. These include low-income populations, the uninsured, individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals with limited English proficiency, and migrant and seasonal farm workers. Today, health centers serve 1 in 13 people in the US, and 1 in 10 children, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Addressing the social determinants of health is in the “DNA” of community health centers. Health centers are rooted deeply in their communities, and have a breadth of knowledge of community needs. In addition to providing comprehensive primary care services, they are also addressing social determinants through a wide range of activities. These activities may include offering parenting classes, providing health education, nutrition and healthy cooking workshops, providing job skills training, and ensuring access to safe and affordable housing. These services help to empower community residents to live healthier lifestyles, and improve community conditions. Finally, health centers form partnerships with other community organizations that are addressing the social determinants, such as local health departments.
Many of our community members are facing significant preventive care needs, poor transportation options, unsafe housing, chronic stressors, and other triggers of unhealthy outcomes. Bold, holistic approaches are needed to create the community conditions in which lasting change can take root. Only then can achieve better health outcomes in generations to come.
Sarah Wang is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health
By: Sarah Wang
Imagine encountering a bear as you are walking through the forest. Immediately, stress hormones are released, your heart begins to pound, and you are ready to either flee or fight the bear. This stress response is adaptive, and can be life saving. However, what happens when the bear is at your door every night? This activation of the stress-response system again and again can become maladaptive over time. This is how Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in San Francisco, explains the effects of chronic stress. Through her work, she has linked toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences with harmful health effects later in life.
We all experience stress in our lives. The causes of stress range from common frustrations, such as a traffic jam to a looming deadline, to traumatic experiences such as divorce or losing your job. Stress response allows our bodies to mobilize to either confront the danger or run away. Short-term stressors can sharpen attention and memory, and can even boost the level of cells involved in fighting off infections. However, stress that drags on can have negative consequences. The effects of repeated stressful experiences can take years to show themselves, but when they do, they often show up as disease. Chronic stress puts you at risk for heart disease, depression, and other problems.
Children are especially prone to the long-term effects of chronic stress and adverse childhood experiences. Children who experience early adversity develop lasting adaptations to chronic stress that are hard to reverse, and that undermine health. High doses of adversity affect development of their brain structure, immune and hormonal systems, and even the way DNA is transcribed.
Health starts in the air we breathe and the water we drink; it starts in families, schools, and communities. The conditions at home and at work have a big impact on our health, long before we see a doctor. Sometimes you can eliminate stresses directly, but some stress is an inevitable part of life.
No matter how stressful life seems, there are steps that you can take to relieve pressure:
- Maintain a positive attitude – Reframing problems can be a powerful way to view stressful situations from a positive perspective. You can regain your sense of control by altering your attitude and expectations.
- Seek out social support – The hormone oxytocin, which reduces the stress response, is enhanced by contact with family and friends.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – Get enough rest and sleep, and eat a healthy diet.
- Get moving – People who exercise regularly respond better to stress than people who are inactive.
- Find ways to relax – Make time for a hobby that you enjoy, or take up crafting – certain crafts that require focused attention and repetitive movements may be calming.
- Practice meditation or yoga – These activities have been shown to help people to cope with stress.
- Take control of your environment – If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route.
- Learn to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them to reduce unnecessary stressors.
- Come up with a list of activities that help you to relax and recharge, and implement these when you are feeling stressed.
- Talk with a counselor or take a stress management class.
Sarah Wang is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.
A new report from Health Access, “Profiles of Progress: California Counties Taking Steps to a More Inclusive and Smarter Safety-Net,” details dramatic changes to California’s health care safety net programs at the county level. While the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage options, counties have been left to figure out how to provide care for the remaining uninsured, including undocumented individuals who are excluded from federal help. Counties have responded in various ways, from providing new benefits to those already covered to expanding coverage options to undocumented individuals.
CLICK HERE to view the full report.
By: Sarah Wang
A mother’s breast milk is the optimal first food to give babies the best possible start to good health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for one year or longer, as mutually desired by the infant and mother. In the United States, about 4 in 5 new mothers initiate breastfeeding, and about half of moms breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months. Breastfeeding as a practice is still far from the norm in our culture despite recognition that breast is best.
Babies who are breastfed have better health, educational, and emotional outcomes over the course of their lives. Breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria. A baby’s risk of having allergies or asthma, as well as ear infections, and respiratory illnesses is also lowered. In addition, breast milk contains fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that may help a baby’s brain and eyes develop. As babies grow, the content of breast milk adapts so that babies get exactly what their bodies need to develop. For example, in the first few days after child birth, colostrum is produced, which is a thick, yellowish form of breast milk that provides all of the nutrients that a baby needs in the first few days of life. After 3-4 days, its qualities change to support growing baby’s needs. Breastfeeding’s protection against illnesses lasts beyond a baby’s breastfeeding stage. Children who were breastfed have a lower risk of childhood obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers than children who were formula fed.
Breastfeeding provides unique non-nutritional benefits to both mother and child, such as increased bonding time. Many women report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding, especially once mother and baby get the hang of it. Nursing triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin in mothers, which is shown to promote relaxation and nurturing. Right after childbirth, oxytocin can also help the uterus to contract, helping to stop postpartum bleeding. There are also other undeniable benefits of breastfeeding for maternal health, including a lower risk of uterine cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, helping moms get back to their pre-pregnancy weight.
Breastfeeding is natural – but it does not mean that it is easy. It is important that women and their partners are informed of the benefits of breastfeeding during pregnancy, so that they can make an informed choice on how they will feed their baby. Many mothers set out to breastfeed, but face challenges along the way that may influence their ability to meet their goals. Mothers have to navigate a complex health care system in order to get support during a vulnerable time when they are often exhausted. Vulnerable populations, including low-income or minority women, are particularly affected by these barriers. To support the health of mothers and infants, achieving equity in access to breastfeeding support should be a national priority. While breastfeeding has been traditionally thought of as an individual’s decision, it is vital to recognize society’s role in its support and protection. Family and friends, health care professionals, hospitals, community organizations, and state and federal policies all play a crucial role in supporting mothers. Through support at multiple levels, mothers are more likely to meet their personal goals for breastfeeding. Working together to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding to families and society, we can create a culture of breastfeeding where the practice is normalized.
Sarah Wang is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
California’s Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, voted Tuesday to restore primary health care services to undocumented adults living in the county.
Contra Costa County joins 46 other California counties that have agreed to provide non-emergency care to immigrants who entered the country illegally.
“Providing health care coverage to all is not only about the human morality issue that we should address, but also from a cost-effective point of view … this is absolutely the right thing,” said Jane Garcia, CEO of La Clínica de la Raza, which serves 25,000 patients in Contra Costa, many of them low-income Latinos.
Adult immigrants who are undocumented are not able to participate state health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, but can get emergency care in hospitals.
The program is not full scope insurance, but will provide preventive care. Health care providers and other supporters say that increasing access to preventive services will cut down visits to the emergency room and save the county money in the long run.
CLICK HERE to read the full story
September 22, 2015
[Martinez, CA] – The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved a plan today in a 4-1 vote to expand access to healthcare for residents regardless of immigration status. The decision comes six years after the Board voted to bar undocumented adults from participating in the County’s Basic Health Care Plan.
“Today was a huge victory in bridging the gap of health equity in Contra Costa County. The Contra Costa CARES program demonstrates the commitment of our elected officials and healthcare leaders to work together for the benefit of everyone in this county,” said Alvaro Fuentes, Executive Director of the Community Clinic Consortium representing community health centers in Contra Costa County. “The vote today echoes the voices of thousands of individuals – locally and statewide – committed to improving the health of their communities by ensuring that everyone has access to quality and affordable health care.”
The approved plan will allocate $500,000 in County funding toward the program. Led by the Consortium, a diverse set of public and private health systems stakeholders developed the program to help meet the healthcare needs of those not covered by the Affordable Care Act. Several local partners who participated in the development of Contra Costa CARES are anticipated to match the County’s contribution. As a result, the program is expected to be implemented with a total of $1,000,000 to serve approximately 3,000 residents. Meanwhile, estimates from the UC Berkeley Labor Center show that in Contra Costa County the undocumented population may be closer to 19,000.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ decision comes on the heels of Monterey County’s expansion of healthcare access for undocumented residents. This year, 35 rural counties in California and Sacramento County also expanded access to healthcare for undocumented adults and expansion of Medi-Cal access to undocumented children in the state was approved in the Governor’s budget. Contra Costa represents the 47th county in the state to provide access to healthcare for its undocumented adult population.
President Barack Obama has officially Proclaimed August 9th- 15th National Health Center Week, 2015! Check out the official White House Proclamation and be sure to send us your state and local #NHCW15 Proclamations for us to share and post on the HCW website!
We are also pleased to share brand new Health Center data and NHCW infographics created by the NACHC research team. Check out these great new resources and take advantage of the custom Health Center infographic tool to customize a #NHCW15 infographic for your Health Center!
- Health Centers, Paving the Road to Good Health National Infographic
- Health Centers, Paving the Road to Good Health Animated National Infographic
- Custom Health Center Week Infographic Template
Help us spread the word about NHCW on social media: Use the hashtag #NHCW15 to let everyone know how you are celebrating this year! Help spread the word and make Health Center Week the biggest and best yet! Check out our #NHCW15 social media post guide for sample posts! Helpful tip: use social media to thank your elected officials for their support by tagging and communicating with them directly! Don’t be shy, ask elected officials to post about National Health Center Week on their social media pages using the hashtag #NHCW15.
After lots of planning and hard work, National Health Center Week 2015 (August 9-15) has finally arrived and it is time to celebrate! At thousands of events and in hundreds of ways across the country, Health Center staff, board members, patients, community leaders, and other Health Center advocates are celebrating the great work that Health Centers do in bringing high-quality, cost effective, and accessible care to millions of patients.
Best Wishes for a Wonderful Week of Celebrations – Happy National Health Center Week 2015!
CLICK HERE to watch the video “Health Centers: Paving the Road to Good Health“
As Gov. Jerry Brown struck a budget deal Tuesday that would offer healthcare to children in the country illegally, Sacramento County supervisors — sitting less than a mile away — also agreed to provide medical care for county residents who lack papers.
The Sacramento Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan that includes $5.2 million to pay for primary care and some specialty care for undocumented adults. Officials estimate it will fund care for up to 3,000 of the county’s 50,000 immigrants.
CLICK HERE to read the full story
As people all across California prepare for the holiday season, this November marks an especially important time for all Californians. That’s because Nov. 15 is the beginning of the second open enrollment period for Covered CA.
Covered CA, which was put in place as a result of the Affordable Care Act, is California’s own health insurance marketplace. Through Covered CA, California residents can choose from among several quality health insurance plans offered in their region. Those with qualifying incomes can also receive financial assistance when purchasing health plans through Covered CA to help them pay the cost of their monthly premium. Some consumers will also qualify for plans with reduced out-of-pocket costs, including lower co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, all plans offered through Covered CA, as well as all health insurance plans offered through the individual and small group markets, also provide coverage for the following 10 essential health benefits:
CLICK HERE to read the full story.
Though the Human Papillomavirus vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, is not required to attend school, it is strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are vaccines available to protect both males and females against some of the most common types of HPV.
CLICK HERE to read the full story.
They provide comprehensive, high-quality, affordable primary and preventative care. But health centers do more than just provide health care. They’re transforming communities by going above and beyond traditional providers. They set themselves apart by providing a wide range of services to improve the overall health of their patients and communities including patient education, fitness programs, nutrition classes and even enrollment into health insurance programs to help their patients pay for care.
CLICK HERE to read the full story
Richmond Pulse News Report + Photos, Marco Villalobos
Beneath a mural depicting salvation outside St. Mark’s Church, Ruben Pedroza stood trying to figure out his family’s health insurance. Inside the church hall, a meeting was underway to educate residents as to what health coverage they might qualify for due to the Affordable Care Act.
Ruben Pedroza speaks with a representative of Contra Costa ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), one of the organizations partnering to host the town hall.
Although nearly 3.5 million California residents have enrolled in either Covered California (the state’s marketplace) or Medi-Cal since last fall, over 5.8 million Californians remain without coverage. Mr. Pedroza counts his five sons among the uninsured.
In fact, Pedroza says, he’s been the only member of his family with health coverage for years, a situation he is now trying to remedy.
At the heart of the meeting at the church, hosted by Healthy Richmond’s Access to Quality Healthcare Action Team, was a push to inform locals of what health coverage options are available to them and how to access health care, with or without insurance.
“Moving forward, we must acknowledge that there are thousands of individuals in Contra Costa County that will remain uninsured. This event is the first in a series of community-driven efforts that we will organize to elevate the importance of ensuring that everyone has access to comprehensive health care and a quality medical home,” said Alvaro Fuentes, the executive director of the Community Clinic Consortium of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.
In the church hall, panelists discussed details around coverage options and care, specifically for Latinos, who comprise one of the state’s largest workforces. One of the keys to improved and wider coverage, said Dr. Xavier Morales, the executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, is the Health for All Act. Also known as State Sen. Ricardo Lara’s SB 1005, the bill proposes to expand health coverage to all Californians, regardless of immigration status.
Ruben Pedroza, pictured here with his son, seeks to secure health care for his family of seven.
“I feel like whether you are documented or undocumented it should work for everybody,” said Pedroza.
But the act, as pivotal as it could be in ensuring that all residents have access to quality and affordable care, would do little to address the current statewide backlog of 900,000 coverage applicants.
“We’re here tonight because we’ve been having problems with the Covered California plan,” said Pedroza, as his four-year-old son wriggles loose from his arms. “We registered with them a couple of months back and they accepted me and my wife with Kaiser. We tried to enroll our kids with Kaiser and they sent us a letter saying that the kids weren’t qualified, that they would have to qualify through Medi-Cal.”
That letter was the beginning of a struggle that still leaves the Pedrozas between plans in search of a resolution that will provide coverage for their sons.
“We went ahead and applied for Medi-Cal, and Medi-Cal sent us a letter saying that we didn’t qualify for Medi-Cal, that we should enroll in the Covered California plan,” said Pedroza. “So they’re just throwing us back and forth and that’s the reason why we’re here. We’re trying to get answers and find out which way to go with this.”
Richmond locals sign in at a welcoming desk before a Healthy Richmond town hall meeting at St. Marks Church.
As he sat down with a group of attendees, he motioned for a headset. His wife, recently granted residency in the state, wanted to listen in on panelists via the live translation taking place.
Regardless of the status of one’s application, assured Dr. William Walker, director and health officer of Contra Costa Health Services, “If you signed up and need care, you can be covered retroactively.”
Given his difficulty in securing coverage, Pedroza doubts the reliability of more universal access to coverage. “They’re trying to get everybody into the health plan but it’s not working, you know? [My] kids are stuck in the middle,” he says. He headed off in search of some reassurance that this time he was getting closer to health care for his sons.
In support of this day, the World Health Organization and partners around the globe are engaging in efforts to raise awareness and to advocate for policies such as increased taxes on tobacco.
Despite campaigns like World No Tobacco Day and the tremendous strides the United States has made in recognizing the harmful effects of tobacco, tobacco use still remains the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke result in one in five deaths in the U.S. each year – roughly 480,000 people.
Smoking tobacco not only leads to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, but it also increases the risk of death from all causes for both men and women, according to the CDC. Smoking tobacco can also negatively impact pregnancy and birth outcomes, oral health, vision and bone health, and can increase the risk of developing diabetes and many types of cancer.
Not only is smoking bad for your health, but it is also bad for your wallet, with smoking-related diseases resulting in roughly $96 billion in health care costs each year, according to the CDC
Though only 13.8 percent of adults in California are estimated to be smokers, a recent presentation to the Board of Supervisors by the Solano County Health Promotion and Community Wellness Bureau stated that more than 21 percent of adults in Solano County are smokers, and more than 10 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders smoke. According to the Solano County Tobacco Prevention and Education Program, tobacco use results in the death of more than 780 Solano County residents each year.
While all of this may seem like bad news, the good news is that quitting smoking and the use of other tobacco products will have tremendously positive impact on your health. According to the CDC, after one year of cessation, your risk of developing heart disease will drop dramatically. After two to five years of being smoke free, your risk of stroke could return to the same level as a nonsmoker. And within five years, your risk of developing cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder will drop by half.
Thankfully, in Solano County there are many resources available to help those who are interested in quitting the use of tobacco products. The Solano County Tobacco Prevention and Education Program can provide you with information on resources in your area, including in-person and online classes.
Visit www.tobaccofreesolano.org for more information. In addition, you can visit your local community health center to find out what health education and tobacco cessation services they offer.
So, in honor of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, consider the ways in which you can improve your health and the health of your community by reducing your exposure to tobacco this summer.
Whether you want to quit smoking, encourage a family member to do so, or advocate for different policies in your community, there are a lot of ways to improve your health by reducing your exposure to tobacco and having a smoke free summer.
Morgan Westfall is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Learn More About Healthcare Benefits for the Immigrant Latino Community*
May 20, 2014
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
St. Marks Catholic Church,
159 Harbour Way
Richmond, CA, 94801
Since the launch of the Affordable Care Act last fall, nearly 3.5 million people enrolled in either Covered California or Medi-Cal. Today, over 5.8 million Californians still remain uninsured.
Join us at an Educational Town Hall meeting on May 20th to learn about what legal statuses and healthcare benefits you may be eligible for.*
- What is DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status and are you eligible?
- What legal status categories are eligible for PRUCOL (Permanently Residing Under Color of Law) or Emergency Medi-Cal?
- How do you apply for health coverage for your children?
- What is happening at the state level and local level to ensure a health care safety net for all is established?
- Print Resources
- Certified Health Enrollment
- Immigration Rights Lawyers
- Panelists from: Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Contra Costa Health Services, Contra Costa County
This Town Hall meeting is organized by Healthy Richmond’s Access to Quality Healthcare (AQH) Action Team.
Contact Healthy Richmond at 510-307-5747 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
*You do not need to have legal status to attend. Future events for other immigrant communities are being coordinated and will take place soon.
Foro Público del Cuidado de la Salud
20 de Mayo, 2014
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
St. Marks Catholic Church
159 Harbour Way
Richmond, CA, 94801
Aprenda Más Sobre los Beneficios de Salud para la Comunidad Inmigrante Latina*
Desde el lanzamiento de la Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio (Affordable Care Act) el otoño pasado, cerca de 3.5 millones de personas se han inscrito en Covered California o Medi-Cal. Hoy en día, más de 5.8 millones de Californianos aún permanecen sin seguro de salud.
Únase a nosotros el 20 de Mayo en el Foro Público para aprender más sobre categorías de estado legal y beneficios de salud para los cuales usted pueda ser elegible.*
- ¿Que es el estado legal de DACA (Acción Diferida para los Llegadas en la Infancia) y eres elegible?
- ¿Qué categorías de estado legal son elegibles para PRUCOL (Residencia Permanente bajo apariencia de legalidad) o Medi-Cal de Emergencia?
- ¿Cómo solicitar cobertura de salud para sus hijos?
- ¿Que esta pasando al nivel estatal y local para asegurar que un red de cuidado de salud estará creada para todos?
- Cuidado de Niños
- Consejeros de Inscripción
- Abogados que se especializan en Derechos de Inmigración
- Panelistas de: Coalición Latina para una California Saludable, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Contra Costa Health Services, Contra Costa County
Este foro público fue organizado por el Grupo de Acción para el Acceso de Cuidado de la Salud (Access to Quality Healthcare Action Team, AQH, Action Team), parte de la iniciativa de Healthy Richmond.
Para más información, contacte Healthy Richmond a través de email@example.com o 510-307-5747.
*No necessita estado legal para atender. Eventos futuros para otras comunidades de
inmigrantes están siendo coordinadas y se llevará a cabo pronto.
As more Californians gain access to health insurance, however, it is important for consumers to understand how to use their newly acquired insurance.
A 2013 study by the Journal of Health Economics found that many consumers don’t fully understand the details of their health insurance plan. Of those consumers surveyed in the study, only 14 percent were able to explain the differences between basic insurance concepts such as deductibles and co-pays.
One way consumers can get a better handle on their health insurance policy is by understanding the different types of cost associated with their plan. There are typically four different types of cost included in a health insurance plan: Premiums, co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles. It’s important to factor in all of these different types of costs when picking a plan and using it.
Now, let’s review what some of these terms mean.
A health insurance premium is the amount of money a person pays periodically – usually monthly – to buy an insurance plan. In order to keep your health insurance, you must continue paying this amount for your entire benefit year.
A co-pay or co-insurance is separate from what you pay for your premium. These terms refer to the amount you have to pay out of your own pocket every time you go to the doctor or receive a service. A co-pay is a fixed amount that you pay for a service. For example, the $20 you pay every time you see your doctor would be a type of co-pay. Co-insurance refers to the percentage of the cost of a service that you are responsible for paying. Some plans charge either co-pays or co-insurance, while others may include a combination of the two.
A final type of cost that is important to understand is a deductible. A deductible is the amount a consumer must pay each year before their health insurance will start paying for a portion of their health care costs. For example, if you purchased a plan with a $500 deductible, this means that you will have to pay $500 out of your own pocket in addition to your monthly premium before your health insurance will start paying for you. Before you meet that deductible, you will be responsible for paying the full cost of any services you receive. Co-pays and co-insurance costs will come into effect after you have reached the deductible in the plan you have chosen.
Thankfully, most plans are now required to have an out-of-pocket maximum. This means that there is a limit on how much you are expected to pay out-of-pocket through deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance during the policy year before your insurance will cover 100 percent of your health care costs. Most health plans are also required to cover preventative services and screenings, such as mammograms and pap smears at no cost to you.
While many of these costs may seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had health insurance, it’s important to remember that having health insurance can not only protect your health but can also protect you financially in the event of an emergency or unforeseen medical circumstance. Ultimately, this will enable you to take the preventative measures necessary to protect your health today and ensure a healthy future for tomorrow.
Morgan Westfall is a Project Coordinator for the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Though Valentine’s Day, along with February’s American Heart Month, has passed, Americans should still be thinking about their hearts. That’s because continual promotion of good heart health and awareness of heart disease is important.
Heart disease, which refers to several types of heart conditions, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America. It results in roughly 600,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States and can lead to angina (chest pain), heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias, according to the CDC. The main risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. There are also several other risk factors for heart disease, including having diabetes, being overweight or obese, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive use of alcohol, according to the American Heart Association.
According to both the CDC and the American Heart Association, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Remember to eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. You should also exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, limit your alcohol use and avoid smoking.
Another great way to maintain or improve your heart health is to make sure you have the health coverage you need. Having access to health insurance allows you to get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly, both of which are key in understanding your risk for heart disease. In addition, having access to health coverage allows you to access preventative care as well as timely treatment if you do develop heart disease.
According to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 7.3 million Americans with cardiovascular disease were uninsured before implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, according to the American Heart Association, being uninsured puts people at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Thankfully now that implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act is well under way, you can get the health coverage you need to really keep your heart doing its best. Here in California, consumers who are uninsured now have access to health insurance through either Covered CA or expanded Medi-Cal. Those who purchase coverage through Covered CA may even have access to financial assistance, in addition to being able to choose between quality plans that cover the 10 essential health benefits.
In addition to new coverage options being made available under the Affordable Care Act, consumers can also no longer be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or a congenital heart defect. This means that people who already have heart disease or risk factors for it can no longer be denied access to insurance because of these conditions.
For more information about what new coverage options may be available to you, go to www.coveredca.com. You can also visit your local community health center to find out more information about signing up for health coverage, as well as resources for keeping your heart healthy.
Whether you want to start eating healthier, exercising more, or getting enrolled into health insurance coverage, now is the perfect time to take the steps you need to keep your heart healthy!
Morgan Westfall is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.
Despite technical difficulties faced with the Covered California website, CECs and event staff helped over 130 participants learn more about new and affordable health coverage options. Approximately 77 participants were able to enroll into Covered California and Medi-Cal.
For more information on upcoming local events and opportunities to enroll in health coverage, click here for our event calendar.
Clinics that have long enjoyed state support to run as nonprofits are having to rethink how to stay in business.
Take the Planned Parenthood clinic in Concord, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. Priscilla Castillo is surrounded by a rainbow of insurance forms patients fill out when they come to the clinic. They won’t have to much longer, though, because the clinic is moving to a new electronic system.
It’s the clinic’s latest attempt to cut costs in the age of Obamacare. At the start of the New Year, the vast majority of their patients became eligible for Medicaid.
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LifeLong Medical Care’s Berkeley Primary Care health center has received recognition as a Level Three Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). This highest level of recognition is for using evidence-based, patient-centered processes that focus on highly coordinated care and long-term participative relationships. The patient-centered medical home is a model of care emphasizing care coordination and communication to transform primary care into “what patients want it to be.”
“The patient-centered medical home raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and partnerships between clinicians and patients. PCMH Recognition shows that LifeLong Berkeley Primary Care has the tools, systems, and resources to provide their patients with the right care at the right time,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane.
Level 3 PCMH recognition highlights LifeLong’s commitment to provide high-quality health and social services to underserved people of all ages; create models of care for the elderly, people with disabilities and families; and advocate for continuous improvements in the health of our communities.
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STOCKTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday awarded a $691,667 grant to Community Medical Centers Inc. to help it establish a new health center service delivery site.
The grant was part of a $30.6 million package awarded to support 46 new health center sites throughout California serving a largely poor population.
The funds, made available by the Affordable Care Act, will help care for approximately 333,187 additional Californians. Nationwide, 236 health center programs will receive approximately $150 million in grant awards to serve more than1.25 million additional patients.
Health centers such as Stockton-based Community Medical Centers, with 13 clinics in San Joaquin and Solano counties, work to improve a region’s health by ensuring access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services.
The Affordable Care Act recognizes drug addiction and alcoholism as chronic diseases that must be covered by health insurance plans, marking a major transformation of addiction care, HealthyCal.org reports. The biggest change is that 40 million people could enter substance abuse treatment, opening a huge market for addiction care.
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By Fareed Abdulrahman
Confusion and concern: That’s what most of the 50 Richmond residents expressed last week during a workshop about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s subsidized health coverage that’s commonly called Obamacare.
“There is a lot of confusion about what Obamacare is, and what the details are,” said Morgan Westfall, the event organizer and project coordinator at Community Clinic Consortium, an advocacy group that helps Contra Costa and Solano County residents with health and quality-of-life issues.
“We want to make sure that people understand it clearly,” she said to the crowd.
President Obama signed the health reform bill into law in 2010 and although some provisions are already in place, the act will go into effect in its entirety in January 2014. Until then, community organizations are holding workshops such as the one held last week at Civic Center Plaza in Richmond to educate those who could benefit from the reform. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the law intends to make preventive care — including family planning — more accessible and affordable.
Planned Parenthood, which has been operating in Mill Valley for nearly three years after an organizational shake-up, will reopen a newly remodeled San Rafael office Wednesday and shutter its Mill Valley site.
The clinic will provide birth control, breast and cervical cancer screening, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing, emergency contraception and abortion care, among other health services — including services for men.
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For the last two years, Oakland has been without its own Planned Parenthood, which meant patients had to trek to Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, or San Francisco in order to receive care. But trek no more — Planned Parenthood has opened its doors in Oakland again.
The West Oakland clinic will offer the usual: pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, birth control, and emergency contraception. However, it will not provide abortions, which should keep those rabid protesters at bay. Instead, the new clinic will offer abortion referrals to other Mar Monte locations. And, like all Planned Parenthood locations, this one will serve patients with and without insurance coverage.
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Nearly 18 months after opening, Oakley’s clinic for those with little or no health insurance is, by all appearances, thriving.
Those keeping an eye on the bottom line are more apt to describe its financial health as guarded, however.
“It’s a chronic condition,” said La Clínica de la Raza’s Chief Executive Officer Jane Garcia said with a rueful laugh as she described the struggle to keep her organization’s clinics in the black now that future funding from a major revenue source is in question.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider awarding a one-time grant of $300,000 on Tuesday, but even if it does, Garcia doesn’t know what will happen when that money runs out.
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Join Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific and We Care for California (WCCA) in Sacramento on June 4th to stop cuts that hurt access to health care for low-income Californians, including Planned Parenthood clients.
Please help us show strength by joining thousands of supporters at this historic rally in support of two bills (SB 640 and AB 900) that would block devastating cuts to Medi-Cal.
When: Tuesday, June 4
Where: California State Capitol, Sacramento
There is no charge to participate and lunch/snacks and a t-shirt will be provided. There are limited seats available and you must RSVP by May 31 to participate in this event. Bus transportation is being organized across the state, exact pick-up locations will be provided after we have received your registration.
Please direct any inquiries to Marsha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The West Oakland Middle School community recently celebrated the opening of a new school-based health and family resource center, made possible by Lifelong Medical Care, Alameda County, the City of Oakland, and Safe Passages.
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LifeLong Medical Care, located in Alameda County, California, is transforming the way they deliver care. Listen as LifeLong staff describe their roles and perspectives on becoming a Patient-Centered Medical Home
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Supported by a grant awarded by the Planned Parenthood national office, PPSP is pleased to be adding breast health information and education into our successful Promotores program, La Vida Actual, El Habla Actual, which provides reproductive health information and education for Monument Corridor residents in Contra Costa County. As part of the initiative, health educator and Promotores program leader Natalia Tocino attended a train-the-trainer program in Atlanta with Planned Parenthood staff from across the nation in late January. Now back home, Natalia will train our Promotores to include breast health in our regular communications about reproductive health, promote breast health through one-on-one contact at outreach events and trainings, as well as train the remaining and new Promotores to incorporate breast health in their outreach efforts.
One of the provisions in the ACA would expand Medicaid, the federal-state safety net for low-income Americans. Among other things, the expansion eliminates some of the current eligibility requirements in Medicaid, like the so-called “asset test” where an individual cannot have financial assets exceeding $2,000, as well as the requirement that an individual has to have a child under 21.
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La Clinica de La Raza, a local nonprofit clinic that is part of public-private partnership using the mobile clinic to provide free dental care to low-income children through age 19 in Contra Costa County. The clinic also visits elementary schools, primarily in the Pittsburg Unified School District, where a majority of the students are low-income.
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