Delicious and deadly…shaking our hypertension

On this Cesar Chavez Day, I thought we’d discuss food: The kind grown in the ground and picked by good people who work much harder than I do.

If I ate more of that kind of food – fresh fruit and veggies – maybe my doctor, Chris Snow, wouldn’t have resigned from VMC last year after taking my blood pressure. There’s no known connection, but still.

I actually do okay with the green leafies, being vegan and all, but the real problem is SALT. I promised Dr. Snow last year that I’d stop dumping the salt shaker over on top of everything I ate, but he explained that wasn’t the main problem…yes friends, the issue is processed foods: Pre-cooked, additive-rich, and pre-packaged. Welcome to the American Diet.

Food from a carton or can or box likely contains tons of salt. All that stuff in the middle isles of the grocery store, and most of the stuff Americans seem to love…it’s all processed. “Oh, but this can of tomato juice is so GOOD for me,” I hear you saying. Check the nutrition facts, and wonder no more why after drinking that can your heart feels like it’s trying to escape from your chest Alien-style.

I’m being cute about it I know, but this is serious: Hypertension kills millions of us every year. Slows some of us down too; my pal Bruce had a heart attack last week. And VMC Foundation major supporter and prominent attorney Richard Alexander just became an evangelist against salt.

You see, Dick Alexander is a big dude like me, and realized he could do more for his health after a no-salt, no sugar retreat he attended. He writes eloquently about why we ALL need to cut back on salt, and you should read it by clicking here.

And then look for me and Dick in the Valley Medical Center cafeteria. We’ll be the guys stealing all the salt shakers…because we “heart” you thiiiiiis much.

A Positive Dental Outlook – Fluoride NOW!

So the situation is that San Jose is the largest city in the nation without fluoride in the water. The situation is also that 1/3 of San Jose’s kindergarteners has untreated tooth decay. How do you think it feels trying to go to school and learn – for the first time – with a toothache?

I cannot relate. I’m 41 years old had have never had a cavity. My dentist, Dr. Sera, says I have the most perfect teeth she’s ever seen. She’s not met my brother, who has also never had a filling. Before you think we’re genetic freaks, I’ll tell you our parents’ mouths are the dental equivalent to the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan.

The difference, of course, is fluoride; my parents didn’t have it and my brother and I did. Now, County Supervisor Liz Kniss is joining The Health Trust in fighting to fluoridate San Jose’s water. Why the need for a fight? Because there are still loonies afoot who think that “letting the Government put things in the water supply” leads to mind control or something. No, that’s what reality TV is for.

Seriously for a second – scientists and dentists and public health officers don’t debate this – fluoride is fantastic…yet opposition continues. Why, just this week in the Mercury News, responding to their editorial on fluoride, one guy quoted a British physician: “No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a person he has never met, whose medical history he does not know, a substance which is intended to create bodily change, with the advice: ‘Take as much as you like, but you will take it for the rest of your life because some children suffer from tooth decay.”

WRONG! Sorry dude, but doctors thankfully do this all the time. They prescribe Vitamin B12 for vegans, iron for women and folic acid for women of childbearing years. Breast milk for infants. They push vitamin C, and leafy greens, and a good balance of protein and carbs. They do this for everyone, because it’s good for pretty much everyone.

Sorry for the rant, but this whole thing is just silly. And tragic. I love San Jose, but I’m thankful I was raised a few miles to the north and have great teeth to show for it. All kids deserve that, and the cost to fluoridate SJ’s water would be more than offset by keeping kids in school, ready to learn, without the pain of a bad tooth.

Do you disagree? Feel free to let me know. If you want to help, please consider a gift this month to the VMC Foundation…and I’ll make you a deal: Join us, and we’ll help fight the cavity creeps together.

Protecting our Public Health Department (that protects US)

When I was six, my father bought my brother and me two little turtles. They lived in a bowl, ate leafy greens, and gave my father a case of Salmonella.

some species of turtles carry the disease, which we didn’t know at the time. The other thing I didn’t know until Friday is that my father got lucky. He got better in a couple weeks…but he could have died.

That’s why we’re ALL lucky that Santa Clara County has a great Department of Public Health, which does lots of important things including monitoring outbreaks of diseases like Salmonella. It’s part of the system that includes Valley Medical Center, of course.

You’ve probably heard about Salmonella recently, and our Public Health Officers wrote a great piece in the Mercury News the other day…you can read it below.

I think there are two valuable lessons to learn here: One is that we need to keep our Public Health Department strong, because Salmonella is just one of many serious risks they mitigate.

The other is not to buy your kids everything they ask for.
Opinion: Salmonella outbreak illustrates importance of public health programs
By Dr. Marty Fenstersheib and Dr. Sara Cody
Special to the Mercury News

Lately, there’s been a lot of alarming news about the national outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and people getting sick because of eating certain peanut butter and peanut-butter products. The recent recall of cookie dough products affected 13 schools in Santa Clara County. This outbreak is a reminder of the critical role our Public Health Department plays in protecting the health and safety of Santa Clara County’s 1.8 million residents.

Nationally, there have been nearly 500 salmonella cases reported in 43 states. In California there have been more than 60 reported cases, including one confirmed case in Santa Clara County. Although most people who get salmonella will get better on their own, others are not so fortunate. Of those infected in this recent outbreak, more than 100 have been hospitalized and seven have died. While these illnesses and others like it are serious, they can be prevented and contained — if local public health departments and other agencies responsible for response are robust enough to act.

In this outbreak, initial reports of illness come to local health departments from community health care providers. The ability of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments to understand the scope of the problem and respond is only as good as the information that the local health departments can collect and report. If our capacity to rapidly identify, investigate and prevent infection is diminished, so is the national response against the spread of infectious diseases. Local public health departments are the front lines of defense when disease breaks out.

Salmonella is just one of 89 different diseases that are tracked by your Public Health Department. We receive more than 900 reports of confirmed food-borne illnesses each year. Almost once a week we are investigating a disease outbreak. T

he staff of your Public Health Department is on call 24 hours a day, working to keep our community safe from these potentially dangerous outbreaks. Right now the news is about food-borne illnesses, but over the next year and at any given time, we will be dealing with many more public health concerns including meningitis, tuberculosis, measles, sexually transmitted diseases and whooping cough.

Much of what we do is invisible to the general public. So, why does the work of public health matter? Because when it comes to disease outbreaks, immediate actions are taken to protect the health and well-being of every one of us. Those actions include surveillance of diseases, investigation of cases and following up with people who may have been exposed. When it comes to contagious diseases, our local public health department will provide medications and, if needed, will restrict people from going to school or work until they are no longer contagious.

This work is about protecting the health of our community and preventing disease, illness and injury. Everyone in our county wants and expects to be safe from a communicable disease, and we believe they deserve this protection.

Maintaining a strong and stable public health infrastructure is critical to keeping Santa Clara County a safe, healthy place to live. It is an essential part of the front line of defense for the well-being and safety of this community. And yet, even with a new president and heartening promises of commitment and investment in infrastructure and health care, public health departments are facing very serious fiscal challenges and budget shortfalls.

The work of public health is too important to overlook. The work of public health is just too important to each and every one of us.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib is Santa Clara County”s health officer. Dr. Sara Cody is a deputy health officer and the communicable disease controller for Santa Clara County. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

You’re gonna need a good lawyer…

Your doctor isn’t always the best person to solve your medical problem. Sometimes, instead, it’s a lawyer!

Consider for instance the single mom with two boys, frustrated by their weekly asthma attacks and visits to VMC. They know darned well that it’s mold in their apartment walls that’s causing the asthma, yet her landlord wont’ do anything about it…even after their VMC pediatrician wrote a letter and left voice messages. Can you imagine how that feels?

Now, imagine that landlord getting a letter not from a doctor, but from an attorney, representing the two boys! This has proven time and again to get results, and so here’s what we’re launching at VMC: Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY) has teamed up with the VMC Foundation and First 5, along with some prominent families in Silicon Valley, to start a “Medical Legal Partnership Clinic.”

Beginning today, an attorney will be available on-site at VMC’s pediatric clinic to help families solve problems as only lawyers can. Issues of custody, tenant;s rights, teen motherhood and more will be addressed immediately, and these issues so often have medical implications.

Medical Legal Partnerships have been around for a while, but ours is the first in the nation at a “county/public” medical center…which is ironic, since many of VMC’s patients deal with these kinds of issues all the time…and for too many, they often feel under-represented; that nobody has their back. Well, not anymore – not with this new initiative.

Huge thanks are in order, from Jolene at First 5, to VMC’s LeeAnna Botkin, M.D., to Jennifer Kelleher at LACY, and Steve Harris, M.D., the chair of VMC’s Pediatrics…and let’s not forget Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors who continue approving innovative programs like this one.

The results of our Medical Legal Partnership Clinic won’t be known for a while, but they have a long history of success. We’re pretty sure that, in the case I opened with, that landlord will make some repairs, and the boys’ asthma will subside. That means better health for them, fewer missed days at school, and fewer visits to the doctor. Good for the kids, the family, VMC, and our whole community.

Now – who needs a good lawyer?