CIRS Blog about Rural California
By Leah Bartos
California Health Report
In the coming year, millions of currently uninsured Californians will gain coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act — but that does not necessarily mean it will be any easier for them to see a doctor.
As the state prepares for the expected onslaught of newly insured patients, health-care professionals are warning there may not be enough doctors — particularly, those practicing primary care — to meet the increased demand. Some say that the problem will be even more amplified in rural California, which already suffers a physician shortage and dwindling workforce, as the majority of rural physicians nears retirement and recruitment of new doctors lags in replacing them.
The poverty of the Central Valley of California and the abundance of the region’s agriculture is a conundrum. Even though there has been a decrease in community-based access to healthy food, and a rise in chronic disease in the heartland of the state of California, and the nation, we are beginning to see people and agriculture coming together for the good of both.
The exciting change arising in the Central Valley, honoring our agricultural roots and reinventing our regional economy, has been led by the smart growth investments of Smart Valley Places, with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. These buds of change are blossoming into a new triple-bottom-line Central Valley economy that honors the environment, equity and economics. Environmentalists, supporters of the organic movement, and advocates for social justice, are not the only ones talking the regional food system talk anymore. The Fresno Business Council, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and regional cities are choosing smart growth and healthy communities and realizing that the Central Valley, a place with the capacity to feed the nation, can also feed our region. Institutions (such as schools, hospitals and city and county governments) are looking at their ability to access healthier, affordable local food, and the ability for local purchasing to drive their economies home.
Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, California, shares his research on the widely used herbicide Atrazine and its disturbing effects on frogs, the environment, and on public health. We learn that Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in North America. Atrazine is used throughout the United States to control weeds in agricultural fields, residential lawns, Christmas tree farms, and, golf courses, despite evidence of its toxic nature. Professor Hayes’ research published in Narture magazine shows that there is enough Atrazine in rainwater in Iowa to make male frogs “yolk eggs in their testes.” This module shows what can happen when a company in Switzerland is allowed to market their products in America when they can not be sold in Switzerland or most of Europe.
Farmworker Interviews Reveal Heat Stress Illness
Risk Factors at Home
With funding from University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, researchers at UC Davis and the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) recently partnered with the Organizacion de Trabajadores Agricolas de California (OTAC) to conduct interviews with farmworkers in the Stockton area. We hoped to learn more about the off-farm environmental factors that could contribute to the risk for heat stress illness among farmworkers. The interview results will assist the research team in identifying household and community factors that may contribute to heat stress illness in farmworker communities.
Program Development Specialist at CCROPP & Co-Chair at Roots of Change
California’s Central Valley is where much of the nation’s produce is grown and where the greatest diversity of farmers live and work, but it is also a region where some of the most concentrated and entrenched poverty exists (Brookings Institute Report). Some of these rural communities have over 40% unemployment and the current economy is driving the fact that here in the Central Valley, the poorest congressional districts in the nation are suffering greatly from a lack of steady work. The Central Valley’s primary asset is the agriculture industry that feeds the nation and world; however, the Valley has 40% food insecurity and 67% of adults are obese, while children suffer from chronic disease, hunger and poverty.