Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

30th Anniversary of HIV/AIDS

June 10, 2011

HIV/AIDS was first discovered in the 1980s and the world was shocked at how fast the disease spread throughout the world.  In recent years, researchers have made remarkable gains towards the prevention and treatment of HIV.  Millions of lives have been saved and transformed thanks to the knowledge gained from their research.  The United States has committed itself to strengthening health systems, saving lives, and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

As world leaders mark the 30th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS, researchers have made great strides towards the treatment of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. However, we still have a long way to go. Still, too many people have gone untreated for HIV/AIDS.  The awareness of HIV/AIDS needs to be raised.  The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is working to help anyone who has HIV/AIDS.  This organization has helped millions of people and is doubling their efforts on behalf of the millions of people with HIV/AIDS.  We must continue educating the public in order to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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Taylor P.

Santa Clarita Paseos

April 26, 2011

Santa Clarita isn’t usually the first city that pops into people’s minds when they think of a vacation destination, unless they are planning a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  The truth is, many people are not aware of things they could do here in the Santa Clarita Valley, a beautiful master-planned bedroom community north of Los Angeles that is kept very clean.  One of the things the city is known for is the Paseos, which are hidden trails all throughout the community where bicycle riders and joggers can go about their daily exercise.  These connecting trails give residents an easier time getting to parks, entertainment, shopping, and employment centers while enjoying the scenic path as well as being friendly to the environment.

Santa Clarita, CA, may be known as the city where Six Flags Magic Mountain is located, but the city has also created a network of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly paths and hidden trails, or paseos for local residents and visitors to enjoy.There are five different trailheads in Santa Clarita so far, which include:

Promenade Trailhead (map | street view)

You can enter the trailhead off the east side of McBean and park your car at the shopping centers nearby.

Auto Center Trailhead (map | street view)

You can enter it off the north side of Valencia Bl., at Auto Center Ct.  There is off-street parking for vehicles and horse trailers.  Benches, drinking fountain, and information kiosk can be found on site.

South Fork Trailhead (map | street view)

You can enter it off the south side of Magic Mountain Pkwy., between Valencia Bl. and San Fernando Rd., on the west bank of South Fork River.  There is off- street parking for vehicles and horse trailers.  Picnic tables and drinking fountain can be found on site.

Camp Plenty Road Trailhead (map | street view)

You can enter it off the south side of Soledad Canyon Rd., at the Camp Plenty Rd.  Off-street parking available.  Drinking fountain can be found on site.

Lost Canyon Road Trailhead (map | street view)

You can enter it off the south side of Soledad Canyon Rd., at Lost Canyon Rd., just south of the intersection beneath the freeway underpass.  There is some street parking available.  Benches, drinking fountains, water spigots, and hitching posts can be found on site.

If you’d like to explore the city’s paseos, download and print Santa Clarita’s “Trails and Parks Map” or Newhall Land’s map, “Valencia’s Paseos“.

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Joie Montoya

Three Storms: The Perfect Storm?

April 21, 2011

Extreme weather has affected three states in as many regions of the United States.  In the East Coast, North Carolina was hit by a tornado, while Texas wildfires scorched the Southwest, and a cold snap in the Midwest caused snow to fall in Michigan.  The tornado in North Carolina killed twenty-two people and damaged or destroyed more than 800 homes.  Meanwhile, wildfires have scorched Texas for days, consuming over a million acres and making the situation critical in the Lone Star State.  So far, 110 homes have been destroyed and hundreds more could be threatened.  In Michigan, record-breaking snow fell this April, bringing about seven to nine inches of wet, heavy snow, which has bent trees, snapped power lines and shut down schools throughout the Wolverine State.

April 2011 has been marked by extreme weather. Tornadoes ravaged North Carolina and the southeastern United States. A springtime snowfall has covered Michigan and the Midwest. Wildfires have scorched Texas. Is the country in the eye of the perfect storm?Can the tornado, wildfire and snowfall be related to one storm?  I believe that these storms could be related.  The cold front from the north can send tornadoes ripping throughout other regions.  April 2011 is said to go down as a record month for tornadoes.  The heavy drought in Texas may be due to the same cold front headed towards the east instead of the south, resulting in the spread of wildfires throughout the state.  The best thing you can do to prepare for these natural disasters is to have safety kits in your house and an emergency plan.  Don’t forget to set aside food and water that will last for at least two weeks.

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Taylor P.


Aftermath in Japan: One Month Later

April 15, 2011

It has been a month since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, and many of you may be wondering how Japan is coping.  Here are some sobering statistics: the Japanese National Police Agency confirmed that there have been 13,127 deaths, 4,793 injured and 14,348 people missing.  There are over 125,000 buildings that have been damaged or destroyed.  These natural disasters have also caused heavy road and railway damage as well as a dam collapse in Fukushima.  There are around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan that have been left without electricity and 1.5 million households that have been left without water.  Not only do the Japanese people have to deal with their losses, but they also have to stay alert and be attentive to their safety and health.

One month after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Northern Japan, the Japanese people are still struggling to put their lives back together.The tsunami resulted in more than 300,000 refugees.  There are shortages in food, water, and shelter.  The people of Japan really need our help.  Although some of us are not in the position to help, every little bit helps.  Imagine yourself in their position.  One day, you wake up to a natural disaster and realize that you’ve lost your family, home, and business.  I hope that the people of Japan are able to get back on their feet and heal from all the pain that this disaster has brought them.  If you are interested in helping, there are many foundations dedicated to helping the victims of this disaster such as the Jennifer Smart Foundation.

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Joie Montoya

Disaster Preparedness

March 28, 2011

There have been many disasters lately such as the recent earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.  Disasters such as the aforementioned are hardly predicted accurately, which means it is our responsibility to be prepared at all times.  Precautions have been taught to us when we went to school or when we go to work, but for those who might have forgotten, I hope this refreshes your memory about the things you should and should not do in the event of a disaster.

Natural disasters can happen at any times.  Here are some ways you and your family can prepare for the next disaster.Things you should do to prepare for a disaster:

  • Stay calm.
  • Have all important documents (birth certificates, passports, social security cards, etc) pre-organized in a briefcase or backpack and ready to go.  See “Simplifying Your Financial Life” for more information.
  • Organize a safety kit including band aids, non-perishable food, water, disinfectant, an extra pair of clothing, an extra set of keys, and other necessary toiletries.
  • Practice how to take cover for different types of disasters (e.g. in case of an earthquake, get under the nearest table or doorway and cover your head).
  • Come up with different safety plans for your family, including different escape routes and rendezvous points.
  • Write down any emergency numbers and keep them in your safety kit.  You might also consider purchasing an inexpensive, prepaid cell phone to keep in the kit, as well.

Things you should not do in case of a disaster:

  • Do not call 911.  Phone lines will be jammed during a disaster.
  • Do not rely solely on your cell phones for help.
  • Do not lose focus.
  • Do not run into places where there is more danger.

Disasters can be a frightening experience but it is always important to remain calm during any difficult situation, as hard as it may be.  Although there have been some predictions of future earthquakes, predictions are nothing to stress over.  Instead, take it as a warning to be prepared.  If you are prepared, there is nothing to be worried about.

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Joie Montoya


Preventing Rain Damage to Your Home

March 25, 2011

Your home is always a victim in a rain storm.  While some damage may go unnoticed in the last storm, there are a few precautions you should take if you hear about another rain storm coming your way.   Rain gutters should be free of debris so they do not clog, since a clogged rain gutter causes water to run over its edges and water will fall around the walls and foundation.  Over time, your gutters may also become loose, causing water to flow improperly and diverting it into the space left between the house and the gutter.  It is very important to check the gutters to prevent any water flow into the house, as well.   However, even the houses of the most diligent homeowners can suffer from damage because no one can predict how powerful the next storm can be.

Your home may not come out unscathed during the next rainstorm. Here are some precautions you should take to protect your home before the next storm.Water leaks in the home, while subtle in appearance, maybe more damaging than anticipated once investigated.   Some water might come through the walls or ceilings, forming bubbles of water under the paint.  Also, water could get into the house through the roof and stay in the attic with no signs of water damage.  If water damage in the house goes unnoticed, toxic mold may grow and wood could get water logged, becoming weak and structurally unsound.  Mold in homes can become dangerous if it begins to grow, producing allergens, irritants, and potentially toxic substances.  Indoors, mold cannot be eliminated completely.  Your best your best plan of attack is to clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  Wood that has become weak and structurally unsound from water damage can be very dangerous.   It can collapse more easily in another disaster, or if it is simply walked on.  The best thing you can do to protect your home is to keep up with the work on your home, such as cleaning the rain gutters, checking your sump pump, and other drains around your house.

The YouTube video, below, shows what you can do around the house to prevent storm water damage to your home.

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Taylor P.

Skippy Peanut Butter Recall

March 9, 2011

This week Skippy Peanut Butter was recalled for being contaminated with salmonella, a bacterial infection known to cause illness or fatality in children, the elderly, or those with a weak immune system.  The contamination was discovered during a routine sampling of the product.  The products that are affected are:

  • Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread
  • Skippy Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread

Skippy Peanut Butter has recalled two of its products over salmonella contamination. If you live in one of 16 states in the United States and your jar of Skippy peanut butter's UPC code or best-if-used-by date match those listed in the recall, throw away the jar immediately.This recall is in sixteen different states in the United States, such as Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Thankfully, there have been no reported illnesses caused by the product.  However, if you live in a state affected by the recall and own one of the products recalled, you should check either the UPC code on the label or the date code stamped on the lid.  The following codes are what you should look for:

  • UPC codes 048001006812 or 048001006782
  • Best-if-used-by dates MAY1612LR1, MAY1712LR1, MAY1812LR1, MAY1912LR1, MAY2012LR1, or MAY2112LR1

Skippy advises costumers to throw away contaminated jars immediately and to call a toll free number for a replacement coupon.  The number is 1-800-453-3432.

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Taylor P.

Please don’t stop the music! Just turn it down a bit

February 3, 2011

Repeated exposure to loud music can cause permanent hearing loss and ringing in the ears, or tinnitus. Here are a few things you can do to prevent hearing loss.Music has always been a passion of mine.  I started singing ever since I was 3 years old.  Hearing the different instruments blend together to make beautiful harmonies never gets old.  I can’t imagine life without being able to hear a single note played.  My heart goes out to those who are deaf and hearing impaired.  According to recent studies, people such as servers, bartenders, and DJ’s among others exposed to loud music, are beginning to lose their sense of hearing.  Exposing yourself to really loud music can permanently affect your hearing; music will never sound the same again.

Repeated exposure to loud music can cause permanent hearing loss and ringing in the ears, or tinnitus. Here are a few things you can do to prevent hearing loss.There are many precautions we can take to avoid early hearing loss and tinnitus.  For example, while listening to your iPod, turn down the volume to a reasonable level and set a maximum volume limit.  It’s not necessary to blast music if the headphones are already in your ears.  If you like to attend concerts, wearing ear plugs can help.  It’s only for your own benefit.  It is better to turn down the music than to damage your ears constantly by listening to it too loudly.  At times, we don’t take into consideration how delicate our ears are and how important it is to preserve our sense of hearing, so we must take better care of our ears.

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Joie Montoya

Start a Healthy Lifestyle!

January 28, 2011

Some people have trouble getting started on working out or eating right.  It is hard to break old habits, such as eating midnight snacks or sitting around watching television.  Keep in mind that you have control of the choices you make about your health.  For example, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and take some time for you to clear your mind.  There are many ways to begin a work out and eat healthy.  If you have trouble getting up to take a quick walk or have trouble picking out the right foods to eat, here are a few tips for you.  All you need is a little motivation.

Making changes in your life for the better does not mean making abrupt changes.  You can make little changes in your daily routine that, over time, add up to a healthier lifestyle.It’s very easy to be lazy after a long day at work or school.  Instead of turning on the TV, try taking a nice walk with a neighbor or family member.  If you take someone else with you, the walk will seem to go by smoother, especially when engaged in a pleasant conversation.  Also, when you get ready in the mornings, you can squeeze in a few jumping jacks and sit-ups to get your energy flowing before you leave the house.  Add more vegetables to your meals so that you can eat healthier.  Be sure to cook them right so all the nutrients don’t go away.  When you start to crave a snack, try eating some fruits.  You can also add fruit to your cereal, salad and even dinner.  For added motivation, get your family to eat healthier and take walks with you, too.  It would be easier to lead a healthy lifestyle if your family did it together.

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Taylor P.

Buying the Right Health Coverage

June 2, 2010

If you are among the 59.3% of Americans who receive their health insurance coverage through an employer, you are in an ever-shrinking group.  Since 2001, premiums for family coverage have increased 78%, while wages have risen 19% and inflation has risen 17%, according to a 2007 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  If you have reached the point where shopping around for health insurance could prove more cost-effective, consider asking the following questions.

Dissatisfied with the health coverage your employer offers? Do you dislike the idea of network care? What are the differences between HMOs and PPOs? The blog discusses how to buy the right health coverage for you and your family.What are the least expensive health coverage options available?

People have two options for themselves and/or their families: Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs).  Let’s discuss HMOs first.

HMO plans used to offer individuals and families the most affordable coverage, providing medical care through networks of physicians.  People do not need to fill out forms per doctor visit, pay a nominal copay, and no deductible.  When people first consult their primary care physician, who is also known as the gatekeeper, about an illness, they may either treat the illness or, if necessary, refer them to a specialist in the network.  Women can visit a gynecologist without a gatekeeper referral.  HMOs do not cover out-of-network hospitals, doctors, or specialists.

PPO plans, presently less expensive than HMO plans, also provide medical care through a network of doctors.  However, people do not need to obtain a referral from their primary care physician in order to consult a specialist.  Copayments are comparable to HMO rates.  As with HMOs, out-of-network doctors and hospitals are not covered.

What are the monthly costs between HMOs and PPOs?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual cost of family HMO coverage was $13,122 in 2008, or $1,093 per month, while average family premium for a PPO was $13,937 during the same year, or $1,078 per month.

What if I don’t like network care?

If you don’t like the idea of network care, try applying for indemnity coverage through your work, since insurers that do sell indemnity plans adhere to strict underwriting standards, making it tough to qualify for them.  Furthermore, the freedom of using any doctor a person chooses is very expensive due to deductibles and a 100% reimbursement rate only after expenditures exceed $5,000.  Overall, a family of four would expect to pay over $1,100 a month.

Where can I find the best of both worlds – the flexibility of an indemnity plan with the cost savings of an HMO or PPO?

The Point-of-Service (POS) allows people to decide whether they would like to consult a network doctor or an out-of-network doctor every time they require medical care.  A visit to a network doctor would cost between $5-15.  However, visiting an out-of-network doctor would cost much more because insurers reimburse only 70-80% of the cost of the visit once the person meets the plan deductible.  A family of four would expect to pay about $1,028 per month for an HMO/POS plan and about $1,013 per month for a PPO/POS plan.

How do I find a HMO or PPO that suits my needs or the needs of my family?

People should consult a licensed insurance agent who can compare choices available in their area.  While low costs is the most common factor, more important factors would include evaluating the insurer’s quality and its network by contacting present and former policyholders, the Better Business Bureau, and the Department of Insurance in the person’s home state.  There are numerous websites devoted to discussing choosing the right health plan as well as forums where people can discuss their satisfaction or grievances with their current provider.

Shopping for a plan whose network physicians are located reasonably close to home and well-qualified to meet a person’s family needs saves time and money in the long run.  If a network proves too costly in the present time, people should sign up for the best plan that’s available for now and return to their insurance agent a few months later.  Better products may become available at a later time.

How can I determine if my employer does not provide enough insurance?

People who think they need more insurance should ask themselves: “Does my current policy provide just hospitalization coverage?”  If so, buying an HMO or PPO plan to cover other medical costs, sans the hospitalization feature, makes sense.

On the other hand, people maybe unhappy with the doctors in their network’s plan.  They may live in a state that has passed “any willing provider” laws, which require HMO and PPO networks to accept any willing provider who meets their licensing, training, and other standards.

I’m a retiree.  What are my health care options?

Supplementing Medicare coverage with an HMO or PPO plan does not make sense because Medicare already covers basic medical and hospital services.  Retirees, instead, need a different kind of supplementary insurance policy known as Medigap, which covers any remaining expenses that Medicare does not reimburse.  Recently, the federal government has started working with some HMO providers.  If retirees sign up for an HMO plan and commit themselves to visit just network physicians, they won’t need Medigap coverage.  The HMO will require a copayment of $10 per doctor’s visit and Medicare will reimburse other expenses.

Just because your employer provides health care does not necessarily mean you must sign up for the providers from their limited pool, especially if you have found their services unsatisfactory in the past.  We used to rely on HMOs as the most affordable health care solution, but rising costs over the years have caused them to exceed the cost of PPOs.  Look into indemnity coverage if you do not like network care.  If you want to save money in the long run, work with a licensed insurance agent.  Finally, if you are a retiree, find an HMO that works closely with the federal government so that Medicare covers the rest of the expenses that the HMO does not.

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Francis M. Unson