Healthy Choices Blog

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

Wayne Holland died Monday morning without shoes or a shirt.

He may have been cleaning up – or trying to escape the heat – when he fell into the Sacramento River near the I Street Bridge, which he was living under before he died, according to his brother Thomas Conway. Holland was 60 years old.

“He was a transient,” Conway said. “He’s been off and on doing that for years – he’s either there under a bridge or in prison. ... His family loved him, and we’re going to miss him. But we kind of expected to hear this one day.”

Holland, along with an unidentified male whose body also was discovered Monday off Garden Highway near Interstate 5, was one of two people found dead by police last week who were reported as possibly being homeless. Their deaths shed light on the high risk of mortality faced by those who live outside.

Brian Baer/Bee file, 2005
A pharmacist fills prescriptions inside the pharmacy at Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center.

When Chek Lun Wong picks up his prescription medication for hepatitis B at his local Walmart, he doesn’t understand a word.

“I give them the prescription and my license and they give it to me. I don’t read the bottle,” said Wong. “I usually just ignore it if I don’t understand it.”

The 63-year-old Wong, who told his story with the help of a Chinese translator at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic in East Sacramento last weekend, is one of thousands in the capital region and the state who struggle to take their medication correctly because of a language barrier – an issue that some health advocates want rectified at a California State Board of Pharmacy meeting later this month.

On Saturday at the free medical clinic on Folsom Boulevard, Wong waited among a steady stream of Chinese and Vietnamese patients, most of whom spoke little to no English, to get the prescription for his next refill and to listen to instructions on their use from a Chinese-speaking volunteer. Kai Ming Tan, one of the many UC Davis students who staff the clinic, often writes out directions for Wong in Chinese characters.

Randy Pench/
Glenn Roth, 100, of Foothill Farms takes his regular fitness walk through Sunrise Mall on Tuesday in Citrus Heights. He’s part of a mall-walking group that meets at the shopping center. The level ground, security and indoor climate make it an attractive “track” for seniors.
Randy Pench/
100-year-old Glenn Roth of Foothill Farms is all smiles after his walking buddies organized a surprise birthday celebration Tuesday at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights.

Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Glenn Roth entered at the south end of Sunrise Mall for his tri-weekly morning walk. With two wizened hands, the Sacramento resident gripped his maroon walker and shuffled past potted palm trees, plastic benches and a variety of storefronts before passing by the mall’s food court where – unbeknownst to him – dozens of fellow mall walkers were awaiting his arrival.

Roth recently turned 100, as stated on the “World’s Most Awesome 100-Year-Old” T-shirt he wore Tuesday, and was celebrating the occasion with the Sunrise Mall Friends-in-Fitness program. The early morning walking club, like similar programs at malls across Sacramento, is a testament to the health benefits of putting one foot in front of the other.

“When my sweetie was still here, we said we would stay active instead of staying home and watching the boob tube,” said Roth, who attributes his longevity to the fitness program. “And now I have all these wonderful friends. If I stop walking I’ll get old and feeble, and I don’t want to do that.”

Roth is one of 3,000 mall walkers signed up for the program, which began in 1989 with the support of Mercy General Hospital. About 100 members show up on a daily basis, said Sunrise Assistant General Manager Susie Rodgers, and are let in two hours before the mall officially opens to complete their desired number of laps around the .75-mile ground-floor loop. While the program is open to people of all ages, it largely attracts older adults, who appreciate the security and climate of the indoor mall, she said.

Kaiser Permanente is spreading $1.4 million around the four-county capital region in the form of 55 grants for local nonprofit organizations that support healthy living.

The community benefit grants range in individual amounts from from $7,590 to $99,000 and focus on the topics of access to care, healthy eating, active living, safety and mental health. So far this year, Kaiser Permanente’s grants include:

Breathe California’s asthma parent education received $7,590; Communicare Health Centers for expanded access to care, $40,000; Community Against Sexual Harm’s sexual exploitation harm reduction program, $25,000; Elk Grove Unified School District’s teen parent program, $33,412; Latino Leadership Council, $25,000; MindGame for concussion safety for student athletes, $16,380; Sacramento County for low-income flu clinics, $20,000; WellSpace Health’s interim care program, $44,000; WellSpace Health’s T3 South Sacramento program, $44,000; Wellspace Health’s T3 program in Placer County, $99,000; California Food Literacy Center, teaching healthy eating to school children, $10,000; Sacramento Chinese Community Service Center’s Mack Road Farmer’s Market, $20,000; CSUS Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution, $15,000; Sacramento Loaves and Fishes’ mental health program, $10,000; Elica Health Center’s comprehensive behavioral health program, $41,500 and more.

From no less an authority than the Journal of the American Medical Association comes the first study heralding the success of the Nurse-Family Partnership.

The study marks the first time researchers have looked at a high-income country and unearthed tangible, measurable benefits of a program that pairs a registered nurse with a low-income, first-time mom from pregnancy through the first two years of a baby’s life to teach self-care, nutrition and in general how to keep a baby happy and healthy.

California’s Nurse-Family Partnership serves new mothers in 21 counties, including Sacramento County, but Christopher Krawczyk, state director of the program, would like to see it expanded. “The hope is that we would be able to bring this program to more low-income areas of the state.”

The study in this month’s JAMA journal, Pediatrics, found the weekly or biweekly nurse visits result in fewer preventable deaths among both low-income mothers and their first-born children living in disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods.

GTL2JR1NN.3Senior Photojournalist
Renée C. Byer/
Luis reads with mom during Johnson’s visit on July 8. The program not only nurtures children’s reading skills, but also is designed to helps mothers establish a career.
GTL2JR20R.3Senior Photojournalist
Renée C. Byer/
Luis Yahel Carrillo, 20 months old, and his mother, Amelia Carrillo, left, receive help from Sacramento County public health nurse Patricia Johnson during a home visit July 8 in south Sacramento.

Back in the Victorian Days, upper-crust families – those who came from old money, perhaps – enjoyed wealth enough to employ nurses to attend to young, anxious, first-time mothers-to-be.

Today, the awareness of how social determinants can affect health is flipping that scenario around. Now the county’s nurses make weekly house calls to pregnant women who lack the means to hire help. The happy result: A tangible boost of at-risk moms’ odds at turning around the family’s fortunes for the next generation.

Public programs to improve health outcomes are increasingly making inroads into communities – from the White House’s new initiative for disadvantaged dads, to foundations’ efforts to ratchet up wellness in low-income locales, to school reforms of zero-tolerance policies that hit kids of color hard.

The goal du jour is resilience: Teach people to help themselves, adopt healthy outlooks and habits, and you give a leg up to those in the cross-section of society who find the American Dream elusive. Experts say the best, most-effective way for social services to do this is to provide support, encouragement and education face-to-face, one-on-one.

Andrew Seng/
Ainsley Scull listens to diabetes educator Erin Heiser’s advice on how to read blood sugar levels Tuesday at the Youth Diabetes Camp at UC Davis.
Andrew Seng/
Ainsley Scull, 6, tries to keep a straight face during an educational game Tuesday at the Youth Diabetes Camp at UC Davis, where children with Type 1 diabetes learn to manage their condition while also remaining healthy and active.

During most summer weeks, more than 300 campers are running around UC Davis in bright yellow T-shirts and a few layers of sunscreen for one of the university’s many recreational youth programs. This week, 15 more are forming a league of their own through the campus’s first-ever diabetes camp.

The UC Davis Recreation and Unions Department and the UC Davis Children’s Hospital co-organized the camp, which aims to teach kids ages 6-12 with Type 1 diabetes how to manage their blood sugar levels while maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. During the five-day session, the small group follows the same schedule as the other camps and participates in everything from tie-dye to rock climbing, all while keeping a close eye on the glucometer.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that prevents the pancreas from producing a hormone called insulin, which converts glucose from carbohydrates into usable energy and manages the body’s blood sugar. Only about 5 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

At camp “T1D”– as the campers colloquially call their group– physical activity, nutritional intake and blood sugar levels exist in a carefully balanced trifecta which, if knocked off-kilter, can result in a medical emergency. For that reason, the camp’s staff includes two registered nurses, two counselors, a dietitian and a physician to keep close tabs on campers’ health. Some of the staff are from the UC Davis Children’s Hospital, where the campers are all patients.

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which can result in death, is a worry once again.

The Sacramento area’s annual war against the West Nile virus is engaging a tinier, though no less threatening, enemy this season, as aerial spraying of insecticides is set to resume Wednesday and Thursday nights, officials said.

Aircraft will spread pesticides over parts of Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks and Orangevale, with boundaries stretching from Highway 80 and Garfield Avenue on the west to Hazel Avenue on the eastern side. The southern border will be Lincoln Avenue, while the north will be defined by the Sacramento County line.

Mother Nature has introduced a tinier mosquito to the region this year, one roughly in size between a fruit fly and a typical mosquito, making it a threat to those with gaps or tears in their screens and doors. The smaller mosquito makes a softer telltale buzz, so people will have to be more attuned to the bugs in their surroundings.

Regardless of the size of the insect, officials say, this season is shaping up to be a more active one for the virus than last year’s, when aerial spraying over neighborhoods was not necessary.


Sandy Fanning had walked past the signs advertising shingles vaccinations outside her neighborhood Rite Aid for months, but she wasn’t concerned about getting shingles herself.

The vaccine is marketed for people 60 years and older. Fanning is 57, so it came as a surprise when she was diagnosed with shingles last week after enduring a weekend of fatigue, aches, pains and itchiness caused by the virus.

“I didn’t associate shingles with what was happening to me,” said Fanning, who lives in Citrus Heights. “I didn’t put two and two together.”

The shingles vaccine, introduced in 2006, has failed to halt a steady rise in U.S. cases of the virus, also known as herpes zoster, since the early 1990s, said Dr. Ben Balatbat, an infectious-disease specialist and chairman of the Internal Medicine Department at Mercy Medical Group.

A speaker’s forum examining the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” takes place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Embassy Suites Sacramento, 100 Capitol Mall.

Dr. Ron Chapman, chief of the California Department of Public Health and Dr. Jose Arevelo, president of Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, are among the featured speakers, along with Britta Guerrero, executive director of Native American Health Center.

The panel will discuss how the Affordable Care Act is unfolding in Sacramento-area communities six months into its roll out. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Drexel University Sacramento and its master of public health program.

Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District
The area highlighted shows the south Sacramento zones that will undergo an aerial mosquito spray treatment on Monday and Tuesday night.

Areas south of downtown Sacramento will undergo an aerial mosquito spray treatment on Monday and Tuesday after numerous bird and mosquito samples in the area tested positive for West Nile Virus.

The sprays will be conducted by the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, which monitors mosquito conditions throughout the year.

The spraying will last from 8 p.m. to midnight and cover nearly 17,000 acres from Broadway on the north down to Meadowview Road on the south and from Interstate 5 on the west to Power Inn Road on the east.

The spray treatment will be done with Trumpet, an insecticide registered for use in mosquito control by the U.S. and California Environmental Protection Agencies. According to the district website, the sprayings do not pose a risk to human or pet health, but residents should close doors and windows and remain inside as much as possible during the aerial treatment. The mosquito-killing particles break down quickly in sunlight and will not build up over time or seep into

José Luis Villegas/
Each day at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., 9-year-old Michael Lee’s mother, Geena Lee, measures out exactly 6 grams of peanuts to give to her son, watches him to make sure he eats them and then observes him for the next hour to make sure he does not have an adverse reaction.
Jose Luis Villegas/
The desensitization regimen is intended to keep the patient’s immune system from overreacting in the event of an accidental exposure to peanuts.

Nine-year-old Michael Lee, a bright boy who’s bound for fifth grade in the fall, lives with a serious, life-threatening medical condition. He suffers from a peanut allergy, a growing menace that can make breathing a matter of wishful thinking and anaphylactic shock a horrifying possibility.

So why was Michael sitting at his family’s kitchen table on a sunny and breezy morning last week, calmly and compliantly munching peanuts, one by one, with his mother standing by?

He was eating peanuts in hopes they would control his allergy to peanuts.

Counterintuitive? Yes. Medically risky? You bet. Brave? Definitely.

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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