Education is key to breast cancer prevention in Latina women

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. 

Overall, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer amongst women worldwide. Among Hispanic women, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of death, with an estimated 3,200 deaths in 2018 according to a Cancer.org fact sheet. Additionally, there were an estimated 24,000 cases of Hispanic women diagnosed in 2018. 

Breast Cancer education and prevention for Latinas

Latinas are warriors and champions in everything they do, from being successful entrepreneurs to battling cancer, the Latina spirit always perseveres through adversity. Organizations such as Latinas Contra Cancer and ALAS-WINGS were created by Latina cancer survivors with the mission to help other women through education, resources, and support. 

Education is one of the key prevention measures against breast cancer. While breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanic women, they still exhibit 25-30% lower overall mortality rates compared to non-Hispanic white women. 

In fact, studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer is even lower in those who are foreign-born. This is attributed to many cultural factors such as younger age at first birth, less use of menopausal hormone therapy, higher rates of breastfeeding, and different diets. 

The biggest issue facing Hispanic women when it comes to breast cancer is early detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is less likely to be diagnosed at the earliest stage in Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women. 

According to data provided by Cancer.org, in 2005-2009, 56% of breast cancers among Hispanic women were diagnosed at a local stage, compared to 64% among non-Hispanic white women. Due to later detection, Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with tumors that are larger and are hormone receptor negative, which are more difficult to treat. 

Additionally, Hispanic women are less likely to receive regular mammography screening due to a variety of factors. These factors include difficulties related to access to care, insurance coverage, and a higher prevalence of unmet healthcare needs

Latinas Contra Cancer is working to address these factors by raising awareness about cancer in the Latino community, increasing access to quality care, working to decrease mortality and improving the quality of the health care experience. Their mission is to create an inclusive health care system that provides services to the underserved Latino population around issues of breast and other cancers.  

You might be interested: Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Reducing risk factors through lifestyle changes 

While there are some risk factors such as age, genetics, and family history that cannot be changed, there are many risk factors that can be prevented through lifestyle changes. 

Some of these manageable risk factors include diet and exercise, weight management, alcohol consumption, menopausal hormone treatment, and breastfeeding habits. 

By adapting a health-conscious lifestyle, many risk factors may be prevented. Above all, continued education and awareness will help women make informed decisions about their health and contribute to the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. 

For additional resources visit: 

Cancer.org 

Latinas Contra Cancer

ALAS-WINGS 

NationalBreastCancer.Org

Fatigue, brain fog, joint pain? You may be suffering from long-Covid

Asymptomatic Covid-19 and “long-Covid” are becoming a greater concern as many may be suffering from the virus without even knowing. 

Asymptomatic Covid and long-Covid have been flying under the radar however, the affects of both should not be overlooked. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic Covid is more likely to occur in healthy and younger age groups, including children and in households where another member has contracted Covid. Individuals who have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the virus but do not display symptoms after contact could be asymptomatic. 

Additionally, about a fifth of asymptomatic individuals went on to develop what has been termed “long-Covid,” according to an analysis by FAIR Health. Current research suggests older individuals are more likely to contract long Covid, but it has been found in many younger individuals as well. Data from a study conducted by King’s College London found that 1-2% of people in their 20s who had the virus would develop long Covid. For people in their 60s that number increased to about 5%. Long-Covid has also been found to be twice as common among women according to the BBC. 

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

What is long-Covid and how does it affect the body? 

Long-Covid is characterized by symptoms continuing for more than 12 weeks after infection which cannot be explained by another cause. Those who contracted Covid and were asymptomatic may not even know they are suffering from long-Covid afterwards. 

“There’s a myth out there that it only occurs with severe COVID, and obviously it occurs far more frequently in mild COVID,” said Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in an article with National Geographic

Many symptoms of long-Covid are often overlooked or written off as unrelated making the syndrome hard to pin down. Long-Covid can include a large range of symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, sleep disturbance, and hypertension.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can impact your daily life, making ordinary tasks more difficult, and in extreme cases can lead to debilitating effects such as hallucinations, skin conditions, short-term memory loss, insomnia, hearing and vision changes, and gastro-intestinal problems.

Other symptoms according to the CDC, include: 

  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

The potential debilitating effects of long-Covid is cause for concern and individuals should keep an eye out for any changes to their health, even if they do not believe they have contracted Covid-19.

You might be interested: Brain fog can be alerting you about these medical conditions

Diagnosing and treating long-Covid 

While the cause of long-Covid is not yet known, experts theorize that the infection may make some people’s immune systems “go into overdrive,” attacking other parts of the body while combating the virus. 

Another theory presented in a BBC article stated that “fragments of the virus could remain in the body, possibly lying dormant and then becoming reactivated.” However, there is little evidence to support this theory at the moment.

The range of long-Covid’s symptoms has made it difficult to detect and treat. BBC reported that a study conducted by University College London found “200 symptoms affecting 10 organ systems in people with long Covid.”

According to Melissa Pinto, associate professor in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing at University of California Irvine, researchers found that some people who tested positive for Covid-19 but hadn’t reported symptoms at the time of infection  later came in with symptoms associated with long-Covid. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

In diagnosing long-Covid, researchers and medical professionals must first test for any other underlying or preexisting conditions that may be causing symptoms.

Ann Parker, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and a specialist in post-acute COVID-19 care, said, “When a patient comes to see us, we do a very thorough evaluation because we still don’t know exactly what to attribute to COVID and what might be a pre-existing underlying syndrome. The last thing I want to have happen is to say to a patient, yes, this is because you had COVID and miss something else that we could have addressed.”

We are only just beginning to understand the effects of long-Covid and how to detect and treat it. With so much still unknown, it is important for individuals who have contracted Covid-19 to continue monitoring their health even after recovery. For those who may have been asymptomatic, you may not even know you had Covid or have long-Covid. In this case, individuals who have been in contact with people who tested positive for the virus should consider getting tested even if no symptoms are present. 

Hurricane Ida leaves vulnerable communities in ruin

This past week, Hurricane Ida devastated communities throughout Louisiana and surrounding states, sweeping in on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Now, residents are dealing with the aftermath and the long road ahead. For many, the damage is the least of their worries as city-wide power outages threaten the health of residents. 

In New Orleans, a major transmission tower collapsed, resulting in residents of the city and surrounding western suburbs waking without power on Monday morning, the Washington Post reported.

Ida aftermath deepens the poverty gap among vulnerable communities 

As residents anxiously await power to be restored, many have been left to mourn the loss of their homes with no plan for the future. 

Carmen Girton, 43, a resident of Shady Nook Mobile Home Park in LaPlace, Louisiana, told The Washington Post that her trailer had been completely “shredded” in the storm. Girton lived there with her boyfriend, children, and two grandchildren.  

“It’s scary,” she said. “I’m so afraid. It’s devastating, having no home. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t have insurance. None of us have insurance out here. We worry. What are we going to do?”

In Lafayette, Elsa Lopez, along with dozens of family members, congregated at her son’s Duson home to take shelter. Much of the family lived in mobile homes and Reynieri Castro was the only one whose home had a solid foundation, Indystar reported

Castro opened up his home with open arms, not only to the family but to the Latino community at large. “Yesterday, I was announcing that anyone who needed refuge or help, we would be available for them, supporting the Latino community,” said Castro. 

However, the Lafayette community was lucky, with much of the community being spared by Hurricane Ida. 

Still, devastation and wreckage throughout Louisiana and surrounding states will require communities to come together to support and rebuild.

Power outages leave communities vulnerable to rising heat 

Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida on August 29 as a powerful category 4 major hurricane. Date: 29 August 2021. Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Currently, it is estimated that power could take anywhere from seven to 10 days to be restored, according to Entergy, the region’s main energy provider. Though other areas may face longer delays as much as three weeks. Without power, residents could face health emergencies as heat rises throughout the week. 

This summer, the US has seen record-breaking temperatures, resulting in an increase in heat related illnesses and in extreme cases, death–such as the migrant farmworkers who have died working the fields recently. These cases, unfortunately, are more likely to affect low-income communities and communities of color who, historically, have been disadvantaged. Wealthier communities will be able to get by on generators or have already evacuated and relocated. Meanwhile, those who have been left behind in the aftermath face the threat of the oncoming heat.

For ethnic communities, such as Hispanics and Latinos, the statistics reveal a startling disadvantage. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “extreme weather driven by climate change can also make the pollution burden worse for Latinos. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, the petrochemical industry reported releasing 320 tons of extra toxic pollution in Houston, nearly all of it concentrated within four miles of a neighborhood that is 98% Latino.” 

You might be interested: A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

Additionally, Latinos are 21% more likely than whites to live in “urban heat islands.” These heat islands can be “up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than rural and suburban areas because a large portion of city surfaces are covered in pavement and concrete and lack tree cover.” 

A local weather advisory following Hurricane Ida read, “Heat is one of the most deadly weather hazards — don’t underestimate it.” 

The Washington Post reported that giving residents “access to power-charging stations, cooling stations, oxygen, and other needs” is the focus right now according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D). 

Death in the fields: U.S. Migrant farm workers are dying as extreme heat rises

Increased extreme temperatures throughout the U.S. are contributing to heat-related deaths among migrant farm workers. 

Photo by Akin on Unsplash

If you live in the northern hemisphere, then you’ve probably noticed the summer season has been especially brutal this year. The increase in temperatures has been a trend in recent years, with summer after summer breaking new records. Extreme heat waves have been reported across the U.S. over the past few months, with June 2021 becoming the hottest June on record in the U.S.  

These record-breaking temperatures are contributing to a rise in heat illness, which includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  According to the CDC, about 700 people die in the U.S. each year from heat-related exposure.

For those working outdoors during this hot climate, the dangers are even greater. Long hours of direct exposure to heat can quickly lead to life-threatening conditions. Already, farmers and field workers are seeing the devastating effects of rising heat as workers die on the job. 

Death on the job: The deadly effects of heat illness

A recent Bloomberg article detailed the plight of U.S. farm workers who are battling the extreme heat with little to no protective measures in place to ensure their safety in the workplace. According to data collected by Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, nearly 70,000 U.S. workers were seriously injured due to excessive heat between 1992 and 2016. Additionally, there have been 783 workplace deaths attributed to excessive heat in those years. 

These dangerous conditions have already resulted in at least three deaths, according to the labor union, United Farm Workers, who have been attempting to track cases of heat-related deaths. 

Florencio Gueta Vargas, a 69 year old farm worker from Washington, was one of the individuals whose recent death has been attributed to heat-related causes. Gueta Vargas was found by his boss slumped over a tractor on Thursday, July 29th. That day the temperature had risen to the triple digits. 

His daughter, Lorena Gonzalez –one of six children that Gueta Vargas worked to support– blames working conditions and the family believes his death could have been prevented. On a GoFundMe to raise money for her father’s funeral she wrote, “Due to these high temperatures and working conditions my father was found dead at work due heatstroke.” 

Heat stroke is one of many heat illnesses and often fatal. Early symptoms of heat illness include headaches, dizziness, or extreme tiredness. Symptoms of heat stroke include: 

  • Change in mental state, such as confusion, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things) and slurred speech
  • Increased body temperature — 104 degrees F or higher
  • Hot, red, dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trouble walking
  • Seizures

[Source Mayo Clinic

Heat temperature alone is not the only concern when it comes to heat illness. Humidity is another important factor that affects the body’s experience of heat. Humidity actually makes it harder for our bodies to cool down. When there is humidity, it becomes harder for sweat to evaporate off the skin. The evaporation of sweat is what allows our bodies to cool down. 

Since her father’s passing, Lorena Gonzalez has visited her father’s worksite every day. In a PBS article, she describes the temperatures in the fields: the high humidity and smoke from nearby wildfires are heavy weight on her chest. She notes that her father was constantly exposed to these elements driving a tractor with no roof. The lack of protective measures for farmers from the equipment used to lax protocols for dealing with heat and taking breaks all contribute to the unsafe working conditions farm workers are facing today. 

“I just wish they would understand he was a person, that this is so hard on his daughters. My dad — God knows how long he was out there,” said Lorena.

Increasing safety in the workplace for farm workers 

Due to the increasing climate related dangers facing farm workers, advocates are now pushing for OSHA regulations to issue federal heat standards. These standards would require water, shade, and rest breaks to all farm workers. 

In an article by The Guardian, Florida farm worker Tere Cruz said, “It would be really good to have a broad rule so when farm owners see that temperatures are way too high they need to stop and allow people to rest. Things as they are right now, you can see when it’s really hot that by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, people just can’t work any more. But there’s this real pressure to keep working and keep working.” Cruz added, “We’re not animals, we’re human beings, but there’s this feeling that no matter what happens, even when people can’t seem to work any more, the bosses keep pushing and pushing.”

Currently, there are no OSHA regulations to cover heat illness, however efforts are being made to change this. According to Bloomberg, a letter was recently signed on August 3rd by several senators asking the health agency to take action  by creating permanent and enforceable heat standards to ensure safety in the workplace. Ohio senator Sherrod Brown said, “Protecting workers from heat stress is essential” as temperatures continue to rise due to climate change. 

So far, both Oregon and Washington have issued emergency rules to address the heat issue and ensure safety in the workplace, but advocates say these measures are not enough. 

“These are not financial policies, these are health and safety protections,” said  Elizabeth Strater, an organizer with the United Farm Workers. “These are actual men and women and children going out into the fields to work and die to feed the rest of this country, and they are being treated as though they are this human buffer to ensure that there continues to be a well-stocked fridge in your air-conditioned kitchen.” 

You might be interested: Poultry farms and Latino workers at the forefront of COVID-19

Additionally, many farm workers are undocumented migrants. This makes it difficult for workers to challenge unsafe working conditions or seek legal aid. Many do not speak out, fearing deportation, cut hours, or job loss. Due to these factors, many safety violations go unreported. A set standard for heat-related stress and illness at the federal level would ensure that all workers are protected. As advocates, we need to continue to push for better practices and workplace safety regulations because in the words of Lorena Gonzalez, “No one deserves to pass away at work.” 

schools reopen

Schools reopen this fall: Is it safe? 

New Jersey announces students will be back for full-time, in-person for the 2021-2022 school year as schools reopen statewide. 

It’s time to say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen this fall. According to the official site of the state of New Jersey, schools will be reopening full-time and in-person for the upcoming school year. Schools first closed back in March 2020, when the pandemic began and instruction moved online. Throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year, the majority of NJ schools remained virtual or offered hybrid learning options, with a mix of in-person and virtual students. Now, officials say parents or guardians will not be able to opt children out of in-person instruction for this upcoming school year. 

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

The closing of schools last year led to mixed responses from parents and families. Some welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with their children. Others worried about the quality of their children’s education and wondered if virtual learning would be enough to keep children on track. Many working parents also struggled, juggling homeschooling and working from home. And parents who did not have the luxury to work from home faced the challenge of finding childcare for their children amid the pandemic. 

Now, schools are reopening, and feelings are once again mixed. Some worry that it’s not safe, especially with new, stronger COVID-19 variants spreading quickly across the globe, such as the more contagious Delta variant that has been particularly infectious among the young and unvaccinated–aka the prime population of students. Other parents are glad to see a sense of normalcy return to their children’s lives and routines. 

Regardless of where you stand in the debate, without the option to opt out of in-person learning this year, it is important for NJ parents to familiarize themselves with the new rules, guidelines, and safety precautions that will be in place for students this fall. 

Safety precautions for returning students 

According to NJ.gov, all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.  Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, masks are required in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions.

Exceptions to the mask requirement include:

  • When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
  • When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
  • When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering;
  • When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
  • When an individual is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering;
  • When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anerobic activity;
  • When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
  • When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

Additionally, the Department of Education, in partnership with the Department of Health, has produced a health and safety guidance document detailing recommendations designed to provide a healthy and safe environment for students and staff during the 2021-2022 school year.

These strategies are recommendations, not mandatory standards. The absence of one or more of these strategies should not prevent school facilities from opening for full-day, in-person operation.

You might be interested: Reopening schools during Covid-19? Educator and activist Maria Santiago-Valentin weighs in

Vaccinations, social distancing, and more: Will it be enough? 

Alongside the mask mandate, schools will also be enforcing social distancing, promoting vaccinations and testing, and encouraging parents and caregivers to monitor their children for symptoms. 

Vaccinations are currently not required, however strongly encouraged for students and staff who are eligible to be vaccinated. Since most K-12 schools will have a mixed population of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated individuals at any given time, schools will require the layering of preventive measures to protect individuals who are not fully vaccinated. This will include social distancing within the classroom and an effort to screen and report when children are displaying symptoms. Caregivers are encouraged to actively keep watch of their child’s health and report symptoms to the school. Students who are sick should not attend school until symptoms subside. 

All these precautions are crucial to ensuring the safety of students as they return to full-time, in-person instruction. It is unclear if schools will remain fully open throughout this upcoming school year, however, for now, we can say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen for this fall. 

For information on the status of school reopenings in other states, be sure to visit your state’s official website. To check for your state’s mask mandate, see here

heat wave, sunset,

A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

During the past few months, we have witnessed some of the dangerous effects of climate change. We have seen drought, wildfires, and superstorms ravage communities. Earlier last month, the ocean burned when a gas pipeline burst in the Gulf of Mexico. These are some of the extreme events recently brought on by climate change and harmful human practices. But there is another dangerous crisis at hand that is affecting thousands of lives, and that is heat illness. 

heat wave, sunset,

Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

In the northern hemisphere we have been experiencing the summer season, a warm and sunny time of the year many look forward to as a pleasant and relaxing season. However, in recent years, this season has become a dangerous time for some. Just last month, many countries  experienced extreme heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures, putting many individuals at risk for heat-related illnesses and even death. 

Many areas, especially far up north, are not built to handle extreme heat and in fact, some northern buildings were built specifically to keep heat in! 

As the climate change crisis continues to impact our lives, it’s important we learn how to navigate these rising temperatures and keep ourselves and at-risk individuals safe. 

Watch for symptoms of heat illness

According to the CDC, about 700 people die in the U.S. each year from heat-related exposure. Most often these individuals are older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses. 

Heat illness is also unfortunately more likely to affect low-income individuals as low-income areas are often less protected from heat or not equipped to properly handle increasing temperatures. Historically, low-income and urban housing has been occupied by minority ethnic groups and people of color, meaning these groups are likely to suffer more from the effects of rising temperatures. 

Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat illness. Common heat illnesses include, from mildest to most dangerous: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heat illness should rest, stay hydrated, and remain cool. 

Early symptoms of heat illness include headaches, dizziness, or extreme tiredness. Symptoms of heat stroke, which is life threatening, include: 

  • Change in mental state, such as confusion, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things) and slurred speech
  • Increased body temperature — 104 degrees F or higher
  • Hot, red, dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trouble walking
  • Seizures

[Source Mayo Clinic

Staying cool during unprecedented heatwaves 

This summer temperatures have risen to record highs in parts of the world that have never had to grapple with intense heat. 

While southerners may scoff at what some consider “hot” we need to remember that many areas up north historically were built with the purpose of keeping heat inside. Before rapid global warming, northern regions typically did not experience high temperatures and remained fairly cool throughout the year. Homes and buildings were created with the purpose of keeping inhabitants warm throughout the harsh winter months. Now, these buildings are becoming hazards to individuals as the summer months have shifted from pleasant temperatures to scorching heat. 

Heat alone is not the only concern. Humidity is another important factor that affects the body’s experience of heat. Humidity actually makes it harder for our bodies to cool down. When there is humidity, it becomes harder for sweat to evaporate off the skin. The evaporation of sweat is what allows our bodies to cool down. Because of this, humidity is often factored in with temperature in what is known as the “heat index.” The heat index describes what temperature it “feels like” to our bodies, since humidity can often make temperatures feel hotter than the number on the thermostat. Those living in humid areas should keep an eye on the heat index and not only the temperature. 

To keep yourself cool during unprecedented heatwaves and avoid heat illness, there are a few key strategies to follow. 

Stay hydrated. Drinking water or sports drinks is best when battling the heat. Avoid alcohol as it can actually make you more dehydrated. 

Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored, loose clothing. Dark colors will absorb heat, which will only make you feel hotter. Light colors will reflect sunlight, keeping you cooler. 

Remain in cool, shaded areas. An air conditioned indoor area is best for staying cool during extreme heat, but if AC is not an option, then remain in shaded areas with good air ventilation. During the day you can practice “passive cooling” techniques such as putting down the shades on windows as soon as the sun comes up, installing reflective materials or painting roofs white, and taking advantage of natural shade from nature. Using fans indoors is also recommended but only if the temperature indoors is below 95 degrees. Fan-use in higher temperatures actually makes it more difficult for the body to cool down

You might be interested: Young Latina Daphany Sanchez leads energy democracy movement in NYC

The passive cooling movement is particularly effective for those who live in buildings where AC is not an option. AC use also contributes to much of the pollution affecting the atmosphere today and causing the rise in temperatures. Part of the movement to combat heat illness and issues includes advocating for green policies and reforms. Individual action will not be enough to combat the effects of rising temperatures moving forward. Communities need to come together to plant more trees, providing more shade and shelter, especially in urban areas that are prone to becoming urban heat islands. Other community initiatives to combat rising heat dangers include replacing materials in buildings to retain cool temperatures, such as installing tile on floors, painting roofs, and adding external shutters to windows. 

Supporting these initiatives and staying informed about the dangers of heat illness and rising temperatures is the first step to combating this climate crisis and reversing the effects of climate change. 

Health care bill expands Medi-Cal to undocumented elder immigrants age 50+

Health care trailer bill expands full-scope Medi-Cal to approximately 235,000 undocumented immigrants age 50 and older. 

At a health clinic in Fresno County on Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to expand full-scope Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status – a major milestone in the state’s progress toward universal health coverage.

With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the prevalence of health disparities among low-income and minority communities, access to health care coverage for low-income, undocumented immigrants is crucial at this time. 

The new bill, AB 133, will make bold changes toward a more equitable and prevention-focused approach to health care through expanded behavioral health initiatives supporting California youth and people with severe behavioral health challenges, including those experiencing homelessness; extending Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum individuals; supporting continued telehealth flexibilities; and advancing the state’s innovative CalAIM initiative.

Medi-Cal, Governor Newsom,

At Fresno health clinic, Governor Newsom signs health care trailer bill expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants age 50 and over. (Photo source: gov.ca.gov)

“We’re investing California’s historic surplus to accomplish transformative changes we’ve long dreamed of – including this historic Medi-Cal expansion to ensure thousands of older undocumented Californians, many of whom have been serving on the front lines of the pandemic, can access critical health care services,” said Governor Newsom. “I thank the Legislature for its steadfast partnership to bring California closer to universal health care coverage and advance comprehensive initiatives to ensure California’s communities come back from the pandemic stronger and healthier than before.”

Medi-Cal becomes the most inclusive health coverage for vulnerable persons in the country

Under AB 133, approximately 235,000 Californians aged 50 years and older are newly eligible for Medi-Cal, including preventive services, long-term care, and In-Home Supportive Services. 

In 2016, California extended Medi-Cal to undocumented children, and in 2019, California became the first state to extend Medi-Cal coverage to all eligible undocumented young adults up to the age of 26. With this newest expansion, the state has the most inclusive health coverage for vulnerable persons in the country covering all persons regardless of immigration status, except those aged 26-49.

AB 133 will also extend the postpartum care period. (Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash)

Additionally, AB 133 also extends the Medi-Cal postpartum care period from 60 days to 12 months without requiring a mental health diagnosis, including for eligible undocumented Californians.

Further benefits and expansions under the new bill 

Governor Newsom signed the legislation on Tuesday at a Clinica Sierra Vista location in Fresno. During his visit, the Governor highlighted the state’s multi-pronged strategy to reach communities with low vaccination rates and the first-in-the-nation measures announced yesterday to require all state workers and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week. Local governments and businesses are encouraged to adopt similar measures amid the growing threat of the Delta variant.

You might be interested: How to stay protected from quick-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant 

Changing the life trajectory of children and youth in California, the health care trailer bill creates a prevention-focused behavioral health system in which all Californians age 25 and younger are supported and routinely screened for emerging and existing behavioral health needs – enabling them to grow up healthier, both physically and mentally. The initiative includes the creation of a statewide portal to connect young people with telehealth visits.

AB 133 implements an important component of the California Comeback Plan’s $12 billion homelessness package, creating the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program at the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to expand treatment and housing options for all Californians, including people experiencing homelessness who struggle with the most acute behavioral health needs. AB 133 implements the Plan’s $2.2 billion investment for DHCS to provide competitive grants to local governments to construct, acquire and rehabilitate real estate assets or to invest in mobile crisis infrastructure to expand the community continuum of behavioral health treatment resources. The Plan’s total investments in this space constitute the biggest expansion in decades for clinically enhanced behavioral health housing.

meatless meals

5 Fresh and sizzling meatless summer meals to try 

Be adventurous this summer by incorporating more plant-based dishes onto your personal menu. Check out some of these fresh and sizzling meatless summer meals to get started! 

The summer months are often associated with BBQ-ing and outdoor fiestas or family picnics in the park. In fact, July is also recognized as National Grilling Month and National Picnic Month. It’s hard for some to think of summer without grilling and meat-filled dishes, especially for Latinos who pride themselves on their asados. However, incorporating more plant-based dishes into our diets has many health benefits. 

Statistically, Latinos are more likely to suffer from heart disease. On average,  Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics, according to data from Go Red for Women. While there are many factors that contribute to developing these issues, such as genetics, diet also plays a big part. Hispanic diets are often rich in fat from dairy and meats. By reducing one’s consumption of meat and dairy, it can help lower the risk of developing heart disease and other health issues. 

Summer is also the perfect time to be adventurous! Embrace your inner adventurer and experiment with food this season. You don’t have to commit to an all plant-based lifestyle, simply introducing a meatless day of the week can make a difference. One of my personal favorite food-stagram accounts is “Meatless Mondays.” The account offers a variety of fun and fresh meatless meals to try and encourages people to swap out meat at least one day a week. 

If you’re ready for the adventure, then check out some of our favorite fresh and sizzling meatless summer meals below! 

Try these meatless summer meals on your next picnic or party

These meals will make the perfect addition to your next family picnic or outdoor gathering, especially this week during Latino Conservation Week. What better way to celebrate nature conservation than by getting outdoors with friends and family and enjoying some delicious food together!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas

 

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Fiery and Fresh Plant-based Tacos

 

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Grilled Stuffed Peppers 

 

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Pasta Primavera 

 

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Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos with Garlic Aioli

 

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How to stay protected from quick-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant 

The Delta coronavirus variant, which was first identified in India in December 2020, is a variant of the original coronavirus that swept the globe last year, only now it has evolved to become more infectious. Currently, the Delta variant has only been labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC due to it’s high rate of infection and potential to evade vaccines. Since its discovery in late 2020, the Delta variant has spread globally and is now reported in 104 countries

As of early July, the Delta variant has become the dominant form of the COVID-19 in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and other countries. In the U.K., the variant now makes up more than 97% of new COVID-19 cases and in the U.S. it is present in all 50 states and now accounts for 52% of new infections. 

Source: @fusion_medical_animation on Unsplash.

Quick-spreading variant of concern 

The CDC and WHO monitor all variants of the virus to find out if transmission could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as whether current vaccines can provide protection. 

In the U.S. variants are classified as either a “variant of interest,” a “variant of concern,” or a “variant of high consequence.” Currently no variants are classified as variants of high consequence, though Delta and others have been classified as variants of concern

The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, has been classified as such due to its increased rate of transmissibility. It can spread more easily, according to the CDC and the strain contains mutations on the spike protein that make it easier to infect human cells. This means that infected individuals may be more contagious and can spread the virus more easily to others. It is believed that those infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to three or four people at a time, compared to the original virus which spread to one or two people at a time according to Yale Medicine

Researchers now have found that the Delta variant is about 50% more contagious than the variant that preceded it, Alpha B.1.1.7. The Alpha variant was already 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus that began spreading in China in 2019. 

Additionally, many are concerned that the Delta virus may be harder to treat as it may be able to escape some protection from vaccines and treatment. Still, experts urge the unvaccinated to get their two doses, as the vaccine is still the main safeguard against the virus. 

Delta Plus 

An off-shoot of the Delta variant now gaining traction is Delta Plus. Known as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1, Delta Plus is considered a “subvariant” of the Delta variant. The key difference between the two is that Delta Plus contains a mutation that allows the virus to better attack lung cells and potentially escape vaccines.

The coronavirus works by attacking the respiratory tract, traveling down your airways and getting into the lungs, irritating and inflaming the lining and using healthy cells to make new virus parts and spread the infection. 

Delta Plus’ ability to better attack lung cells is concerning as the variant could potentially lead to more severe symptoms and cases. However, so far only India has labeled Delta Plus a variant of concern. 

New symptoms and steps to protect yourself 

post-Covid stress

Coping with post-Covid stress. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Unlike the original strand of the COVID-19 virus, the Delta variant is exhibiting some different, milder symptoms which may go unnoticed. Instead of the hallmarks of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell, the most common symptoms of the new Delta strain are headaches, a runny nose, and sore throat—symptoms that could be easily confused with the common cold. 

Still, the original COVID-19 symptoms may also be present so it is important for individuals to stay vigilant and not dismiss any symptoms, even if they have already been vaccinated. 

Get fully vaccinated

Currently, vaccination is the best safeguard against all strains of the virus and people who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at the most risk. The Delta strain also appears to be impacting children and young people at a greater rate than previous variants. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A recent study from the U.K. showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with the Delta variant. Mutations in the Delta variant allow it to evade some of the protections vaccines offer, however, even still, those vaccinated are more protected than unvaccinated individuals. 

The key to full protection is to get both doses of the vaccine. Those who have only been partially vaccinated are at an increased risk of infection as one dose has been found to be only 33% effective.

Wear masks and use your better judgement 

While the CDC’s updated guidelines no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in most situations, experts advise to continue using them indoors or in crowds of unfamiliar people. 

source: https://unsplash.com/@unitednations

If you’re not sure if the people you are around are fully vaccinated, it’s best to use your better judgement and wear a mask to keep both yourself and others safe. Since the Delta variant can potentially evade some of the protections from the vaccine and vaccines themselves are not 100% effective in preventing the virus, extra caution is the prudent approach. Additionally, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to wash their hands thoroughly after outings and contact with individuals and stay home if they are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms of the virus. 

We will continue to see how the Delta variant progresses in the coming weeks. 

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