In the News

Didn’t pick up the weekly edition of Vida en el Valle? These are some of my recent community health stories. If you’re looking for a story and can’t find it, please contact me via e-mail, rplevin (at), or Twitter, @HarvestHealth.

Oct. 24, 2012: When breast cancer strikes young: Of the estimated 288,130 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, an estimated 13,000 are women under age 40, like Jamie Ledezma, of Fresno, and Jennifer Solorio, of Sacramento.

Oct. 3, 2012: Valley residents must join valley fever fight: Now, it is up to Valley residents to get behind this issue. If people share their stories, listen to each other and join forces, many positive changes could occur — from greater awareness of valley fever, to the channeling of more public research funds to the disease.

Sept. 19, 2012: Initiative promotes kids’ health:  An estimated 400 Mexican-American children from Firebaugh are enrolled in a new, family-based health initiative that combines physical activity, nutrition education, grocery vouchers, and twice-yearly health screenings, with the goal of slowing the rate of weight gain among the kids.

Aug. 28, 2012: Doctors Academy faces unhealthy cuts: The Doctors Academy is intended to prepare Valley youth to become culturally and linguistically competent health professionals for the medically underserved region. As of Sept. 1, the program was expected to lose its main source of funding — a federal grant of almost $1 million per year from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Aug. 14, 2012: ‘Skin color should not be deciding factor of success’:  Miguel Bibanco, 17, was one of a handful of youth who provided powerful commentary during the final hearing of the committee, which was formed to address serious disparities in health, wealth, education and opportunities among the state’s young men of color.

July 25, 2012: Latinas gain support group: A Spanish-language support group, Angelitas de Esperanza, is filling a huge need: Organizers believe it is the only Spanish-language breast cancer support group in Fresno County, and one of few — if not the only one — in the heavily Latino San Joaquín Valley.

June 27, 2012: Undocumented could benefit from new program: Undocumented immigrants are largely excluded from the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. But a private, pilot health benefits package for undocumented farmworkers in CA could fill the gap.

April 25, 2012: Annie Loya’s environmental journey: Last in the four-part series, Latinos Protecting La Tierra.  Annie Loya dedicated her teenage years to an unlikely extracurricular activity: Advocating for the closure of Romic Environmental Technologies’ hazardous waste management facility in East Palo Alto.

April 18, 2012: Assemblymember is driven by justice: Third in the four-part series, Latinos Protecting la Tierra. Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez, who represents eastern Riverside and Imperial counties, has been on a lifelong quest to improve social and environmental justice in his community.

April 11, 2012: An advocate blooms in the desert: Second in the four-part series, Latinos Protecting la Tierra. For Celia García, the situation in Mecca was an egregious injustice that would never occur on the wealthier, western side of the Coachella Valley. Sidebar: Mamá e hija luchan por agua potable.

April 4, 2012: His cause is well-grounded: First in the four-part series, Latinos Protecting la Tierra. Today, when Lupe Martínez -the assistant director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment – tells stories about his decades of service in the farmworker and environmental justice movements, he sees more similarities than differences.  Sidebar: Latino concern for environment grows

March 28, 2012: Doctor sees need for reform: Dr. Rober Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, described the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act law as the country’s best chance to address the health care challenges he has lived, and has worked for decades to prevent.

March 14, 2012: Baby Steps in College: In the San Joaquín Valley — where the majority-Latino counties of Tulare, Kings, Madera, Fresno and Merced rank among the 10 counties with the state’s highest teen birth rates — this is the teen pregnancy success story you hardly ever hear.

March 7, 2012: Concerns easier to address: The Kern Environmental Enforcement Network is intended to make it easier for residents to report environmental problems, and for agencies to investigate issues, and enforce existing environmental laws.

Feb. 28, 2012: Last Doctor for 50 Miles: Rebecca Plevin speaks about rural healthcare during the Zócalo Public Square event in Fresno.

Feb. 1, 2012: School nurses go beyond the basics: Due to previous budget cuts, nurses in San Joaquín Valley school districts are spread thin. They are overseeing more schools and treating more students with severe health problems, at a time when struggling families have less ability to access medical care.

Feb. 1, 2012: EPA commits to help clean area air; EPA commits to help improve drinking water: U.S. EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld launched the San Joaquín Valley Strategic Plan, which is intended to guide the agency’s future work in improving air quality in the Valley. The plan — the EPA’s first for the region — also includes goals to improve regional water quality, protect public health, and uphold environmental justice.

Jan. 18, 2012: Budget cuts will hurt families: If the state legislature approves cuts proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget, many CalWORKS families could lose the child care they depend on. That could cause parents to quit their jobs to stay home with their kids, and sink back into poverty.

Jan. 4, 2012: Turning around; finding inspiration: If I learned anything in 2011, it is that many young men of color in our community are in jeopardy of falling through the cracks.

Dec. 7: On the menu: Benefits: Restaurant owner Griselda Barajas said her team of eight full-time employees have become like family members to her, and she strives to treat them as such by offering them health insurance.

Nov. 30: Working for a Second Chance:  Today, Leonides Olea — who joined a gang at 14, bounced through three high schools, and dropped out of school after becoming a teen father at age 16 — is determined to let nothing derail his education. First in an occasional series of stories that will chronicle Olea’s path toward achieving his high school diploma.

Nov. 9, 2011: Homeless on loose ground after city evictions: Last week, the City of Fresno continued clearing the downtown homeless encampments. In the process, possibly hundreds of people — including Mondo — were evicted from the only place they could call home.

Oct. 26, 2011: Valley is lagging behind: Welcome to the San Joaquín Valley, otherwise known as ‘The Forsaken Five Percent’ of California — as ‘A Portrait of California’ has recently dubbed the region.

Sept. 28, 2011: Board withdraws plan: The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to withdraw the county’s Low Income Health Program application from consideration by the State Department of Health Care Services. With the vote, the county became the first in the state to withdraw its application for the program, which was intended to help counties prepare for the expansion of Medi-Cal that will come with the implementation of the federal health care law in 2014.

Sept. 7, 2011: UN reports on Valley’s bad water: A UN independent expert’s report does not mince words when describing those communities — including numerous unincorporated, majority Latino communities in Tulare County — that have been marginalized and excluded from the human right to affordable and clean drinking water. 

Aug. 31, 2011: Residents on mission for clean air: Celina Romero, Irma Medellín and Timoteo Prado joined about 100 people for Clean Air Action Day in Sacramento last Tuesday.

Aug. 23, 2011: Lawmakers hear about disparities: During the first hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, speakers called for policy changes that would support Latino, African American, Native American and Asian young men in the classroom and in the workforce, and prevent them from going to jail in disproportionate numbers.

Aug. 9, 2011: People of color defend Earth: A new type of environmentalist has emerged in California. Today’s environmentalists are people of color who are directly impacted, and most burdened, by the impacts of air pollution and climate change.

July 26, 2011: Harvesting doctors for the Valley: The UC Merced San Joaquín Valley Program in Medical Education is designed to deal with the critical physician shortage in the Valley by increasing the number of doctors specially trained to address the region’s unique health needs.

July 12, 2011: Farm work no more: A growing number of former farmworkers and children of farmworkers are receiving training that is intended to enable them to move out of agriculture — the Valley’s dominant industry — and into green jobs, which many predict will be the Valley’s next boom industry.

July 6, 2011: Valley residents continue their fight for clean water: Six Valley residents  traveled to Sacramento last week to voice their support for the five-bill Human Right to Water package. It is the stories of people from impacted communities, who would benefit from proposed laws, that are often most powerful

 June 22, 2011: Feeding hungry kids, and giving back: Three young men who once benefitted from summer meal programs are now staffing the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission’s lunch program at Pilibos Park in southeast Fresno, with the intention of giving back to their community.

June 22: 2011: Teen pregnancy remains a continuing fight: Seventh in a multiple-part series. It was not five — but 15 years — later that Vida finally re-examined the issue of teen pregnancy among Latinos in the Valley. Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year, Vida ran a six-part series on teen pregnancy among Latinos in the Valley, called ‘The Youngest Parents.’

June 15, 2011: Teen dads asked to become men overnight: Sixth in a multiple-part series. Samuel Ramírez, 18, who wears braces on his teeth, and sports a goatee and mustache, looks to be walking the line between teenager and adult. That’s true in more ways than one. Samuel, who graduated from Roosevelt High School last week, is also the father of a son, 8-month-old Isaiah.

June 8, 2011: Millenium baby is defying the naysayers: Fifth in a multiple-part series. Three minutes into the year 2000, Isaac Robert Cortéz was born to 15-year-old Sarah Cortéz, becoming the region’s “millennium baby.” But Isaac’s high-profile birth came with criticism. With video: Sarah and Isaac

June 1, 2011: Programs designed to cut teen pregnancies face funding cuts: Fourth in a multiple-part series. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed chopping funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs that have proven to be effective. The result of eliminating such programs could have a devastating effect on California youth, experts said.

May 25, 2011: Programs support teen parents: Third in a multiple-part series. The dramatic decline in the state’s teen pregnancy rate is closely connected to effective youth-oriented programs that have educated teenagers about sexual activity and reproductive health, and revealed to them future opportunities beyond parenthood, experts say.

May 23, 2011: Young and Homeless: Our three-part series on homeless youth and education – a collaboration with The kNOw Youth Media that was supported by a New America Media fellowship – ran on New America Media’s website as a special three-day package.

May 18, 2011: Single mother fights the odds: Second in a multi-part series. Statistics say that as a teen mom, Mayra Díaz is more likely to have less educational attainment and Daniel, as the son of a teen mom, is more likely to become incarcerated. Díaz is positive she can prove the experts wrong. With video: The Youngest Parents, Part 2.

May 11, 2011: The Youngest Parents: First in a multi-part series. Teen birth rates in California have decreased 50 percent since 1991, but the majority-Latino San Joaquín Valley counties of Tulare, Kings, Madera, Fresno and Merced still rank among the 10 counties with the state’s highest teen birth rates. With video: The Youngest Parents, Part 1.

May 4, 2011: Stink Over Plant:  After living for decades with the smell of the rendering facility, as well as its potential impacts on economic development and community health, the local group Concerned Citizens of West Fresno, and their lawyers, California Rural Legal Assistance, are calling on the Fresno City Council to require Darling International Inc. to obtain the necessary conditional use permit.

April 13, 2011: Disease Cluster Mystery: McFarland, along with the Tulare County community of Earlimart and the Kings County community of Kettleman City, are just three of the nine California communities that have either suffered from confirmed disease clusters since 1976, or are currently under investigation. With video: Cancer Village

April 6, 2011: The Joy of Cooking Healthy: What is the recipe for preventing childhood obesity? At Joe Serna Jr. Charter School, a bilingual school in the 32.4 percent Latino city of Lodi, in San Joaquín County, the recipe calls for one professional chef, one nutrition instructor, one school kitchen, and 18 energetic middle school students.

March 30, 2011: Homeless student keeps optimistic approach: When he was just 14 years old, Antonio Magaña made the toughest decision of his young life. The decision, though, placed Antonio on the trajectory toward youth homelessness. Since arriving in California three years ago, Antonio has bounced through five relatives’ homes, and attended three high schools. With story, by Marcus Vega: Daniella finds her place in college.

March 23, 2011: Homelessness no barrier to school: For the 2,400 homeless students enrolled in the Fresno Unified School District, school can provide a sense of stability when nothing else — not a home address nor even the source of the next meal — is certain. For kids who were born into lives of poverty, education also offers the promise of an escape. With sidebar: Families find hope at homeless shelter.

March 9, 2011: UN report not watered down: A United Nations Independent Expert visited the tiny community of Seville, in Tulare County, as part of her two-week mission to the United States to assess the ways in which the country is complying with, and implementing, the human right to drinking water and sanitation services that are available, accessible, affordable, safe, of high quality, and non-discriminatory.

Feb. 25, 2011: Rebecca Plevin discusses air pollution, from a reporter’s perspective, on the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition’s monthly radio show, ‘Clearing the Air.’ The show aired on 88.1 KFCF.

Feb. 23, 2011: School Breakfast: Food for Thought: The Earlimart School District is one San Joaquín Valley district that has implemented an innovative breakfast program with the goal of boosting the number of students — especially lower-income kids that qualify for free and reduced-price meals — who begin the school day with a full belly.

Feb. 16, 2011: Shadow follows doctors: Karen Vásquez was one of about 87 Doctors Academy students who is following a health professional for half a day this month.

Feb. 8, 2011: Rebecca Plevin discusses Kettleman City and other health issues on Valley Public Radio’s ‘Quality of Life’ program. (The segment begins at approximately 37:45.)

Jan. 19, 2011: Fitness training in vogue: Fresno Metro Ministry’s new Fit Family Challenge is an effort to bring free, weekly fitness classes and nutrition education to underserved communities that have limited access to safe places to play or healthy food.

Jan. 12, 2011: The Eternal Optimist: Georgina González did not survived her battle with breast cancer with strength and optimism alone. With the support of state health programs, she underwent an operation, physical therapy and six weeks of daily radiation last year, all in a country where she has no immediate family and does not speak the language.

Jan. 5, 2011: 2011 is their year: Magdalena Romero has become one of the more outspoken and visible of the 11 Kettleman City mothers who has had a baby born with birth defects. By bravely sharing her story, Romero helped bring media attention — and then government scrutiny — to the tiny, majority Latino community.

Dec. 29: The top health-related stories of 2010: Including: Health care reform approved, Kettleman City investigated, whooping cough hits Latinos hard, state’s budget impasse impacts community clinics, and a new face of hunger in the Valley.

Dec. 1: Seville’s water woman: For her efforts advocating for clean drinking water in Valley communities, Becky Quintana has earned the 2010 Environmental Justice Champion award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9.

Dec. 1: Living with diabetes: In the second of a two-part series, Vida en el Valle is profiling a teenager with Type 1 diabetes and a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes.

Nov. 26: Living with diabetes: In the San Joaquín Valley, 11.3 percent of Latinos in the San Joaquín Valley have been diagnosed with diabetes. In the first of two stories, Vida en el Valle profiled two people with type 2 diabetes.

Nov. 26: Study on birth defects: The state Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Public Health said their comprehensive investigation found no common cause for the rash of birth defects in the impoverished farmworker community of about 1,500 people.

Nov. 3: A dental crisis: Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the nation, according to the 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health. In fact, some experts say that untreated tooth decay and poor oral health conditions among kids is the region’s largest unmet health need.

Oct. 27: Parklawn’s sewer woes: Members of the group Parklawn United Neighbors say the neighborhood’s long-time dependence on septic tanks has created unhealthy and unsafe conditions in the community.

Oct.: 13: Valley clinics cry for funds: As the state’s budget impasse dragged on, community clinics and rural clinics in the San Joaquín Valley struggled to keep their doors open.

Oct. 13: Health fair caters to needy: About 1,000 people received health screenings during the Tzu Chi Foundation’s free medical clinic, part of Binational Healthh Week.

Sept. 22: Latinos and whooping cough: Why have Latino infants been so hard hit by the whooping cough epidemic?

August 18: Latino families take clean air concerns to Capitol: About 100 Valley residents visited lawmakers to share their personal experiences fighting for better air quality, and advocate for environmental health-related legislation during Clean Air Action Day 2010.

August 4: Program needs outreach: Third in a series of three articles examining the importance of free, healthy summer lunches for children across the San Joaquín Valley.

July 28: Nutrition for the brain: Second in a series of three articles examining the importance of free, healthy summer lunches for children across the San Joaquín Valley.

July 21: Valley Hunger Pains: First in a series of three articles examining the importance of free, healthy summer lunches for children across the San Joaquín Valley.

June 18, 2010: Vida reporter discusses Kettleman City on New America Now, a show on San Francisco-based 91.7 KALW.

June 16, 2010: Vida to zero in on health issues/Vida se enfoca en asuntos de salud

Awards for community health stories:

May 1, 2012: George F. Gruner Prize for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism for ‘Youngest Parents’ series.

Feb. 9, 2012: McClatchy President’s Award, first place, special projects, for ‘Youngest Parents’ series.

Oct. 24, 2011: José Martí Publishing Awards, National Association of Hispanic Publications, bronze award, multiple article series; bronze award, Outstanding Hispanic Success Story.

May 3, 2011: George F. Gruner Award for meritorious public service in journalism, Finalist, Weekly division, for articles Insurance Insecurity and Health Barriers Imminent.

April 16, 2011: California Newspaper Publisher Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, honorable mention, Investigative or Enterprise Reporting, for articles Insurance Insecurity and Health Barriers Imminent

March 8, 2011: McClatchy Presidents Award, second places, for the articles Insurance Insecurity and Health Barriers Imminent

What other people are saying about Harvesting Health blog:

Dec. 31, 2011: Blog ‘Fresno Stories’ includes Harvesting Health in its Best Media of 2011 post.

Sept. 22, 2011: Harvesting Health earns an Honorable Mention for ‘Best Local Blog’ at the Frebby’s, the Fresno-area web awards event.

March 21, 2011: Rebecca Plevin discusses community health issues impacting Latinos in the Valley at Pecha Kucha night at Fulton 55.

Dec. 3, 2010: The Daily Dues: 31 Bloggers of Fresno

Aug. 22, 2010: The Media Optimist: A new idea for how foundations can support local news coverage