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Harold Pierce's collaborative reports

Two major obstacles have stood in the way of the development of a meaningful valley fever awareness campaign: money, and a lack of a celebrity to champion the cause. Now, Kern County Department of Public Health Services is introducing two television PSA starring starring Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
Even as valley fever cases are sharply increasing in Central California, Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have created programs to inform the public about the little-known respiratory disease.
Rick Parker knew he had valley fever, but his doctors wouldn’t test him. “I knew what I had, and I wasn’t going to put up with a lung cancer misdiagnosis and have them remove a lung for no reason whatsoever,” he said.
The California legislature approved a bill Wednesday that would require the state public health department to develop public outreach programs for valley fever, an insidious respiratory disease endemic to Kern County. It next heads to the governor.
State senators will vote this week on a bill that would enhance valley fever reporting guidelines and mandate public outreach. The aim: to raise public awareness of valley fever, an insidious respiratory disease endemic to the southwestern United States.
Experts in social behavior and public health weigh in on raising the public's valley fever awareness: create a simple, memorable message, turn that message into a social movement, and reach out regularly to find out if awareness has increased.
Valley fever infects more than 13,000 people a year in Arizona and California and kills more than 100. Yet they spend less annually on public awareness than one school district's monthly lunch milk budget and a parks and recreation department's yearly janitorial supplies.
Valley fever killed six Kern County residents in 2016 and infected 1,905 others, a 62 percent surge over the number infected the year prior. Officials are launching a new billboard campaign to raise awareness of the risks.
The bill would bring $2 million to an already-established state fund for valley fever vaccine research and create guidelines for how local, state and federal agencies report cases.
When Juan Solis shuffles out of his dark bedroom, he’s careful not to get too close to the windows. He only walks his dogs at night. That's because Solis has extreme light sensitivity, caused by valley fever.

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Harold Pierce's Blog

For a reporter who found signs of hopelessness in one Kern County community after another,... more »
posted 11/29/17
An invisible disease has been killing middle-aged white people in the San Joaquin Valley at... more »
posted 02/27/17

Harold Pierce's Work

While scores of public agencies are working to develop resources and programs to address childhood trauma and toxic stress in their communities, San Joaquin County in California has been turning itself into a model for how to address the issue.
Stress is a powerful force. It can help us survive, but in some cases, lead to a lifetime of medical issues. A kid can only endure so many stressful traumatic experiences before it impacts his health.
So much of Luton’s childhood and adolescence seemed normal to her at the time. Her father mishandling her mother. Her brother coming after her with a metal poker. Her boyfriend with the meth addiction. All normal. It’s a wonder how she didn’t become a statistic herself.

Collaborative Reporting

Facing pushback from the medical community, California Assemblyman Vince Fong withdrew a bill... more »
Bakersfield Assemblymen Vince Fong and Rudy Salas submitted a $7 million budget proposal that, if... more »