We are proud to announce that Building Healthy Communities South Kern is sponsoring Bakersfield College’s Public Health Hackathon, an event that will bring together public health and science students to develop solutions to community health challenges. 
One of the challenges that will be poised to students is the need for a Building Healthy Communities South Kern application, so that partners can be connected and communicate in real time. 
The free event takes place March 17, 18, & 19 at Bakersfield College, 1801 Panorama Dr. in Bakersfield. Participants interested in collaborating can sign up for the hackathon at bcinnocates.com. For more information, please call Allyssa Haas at (661) 368-5482.

Building Healthy Communities South Kern, CSU Bakersfield’s Social Justice Center and the Kern Rural Teacher Residency will host best-selling author Jonathan Kozol as he leads future and current educators and advocates in a discussion about educational inequality and racial justice.

Kozol, in his latest book, ‘Savage Inequalities,” brings into question the reality of equal opportunity in the country’s public education system.

The free event takes place Saturday, March 25 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Cal State Bakersfield’s Dore Theatre, 9000 Stockdale Hwy. Free parking is available in Lots B and C. Please click here to register for the event.

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The newly constructed action park in DiGiorgio Park is almost complete and ready for area youth to enjoy. Please join us for the grand opening of Arvin’s newest youth attraction to be held at DiGiorgio Park in Arvin on Friday, March 24 at 4:00 p.m.

After months of advocating for a skate park, Arvin youth who participate in Bike Bakersfield’s Arvin bike kitchen, will soon see their dream become a reality.

Building youth leaders and creating safe places for youth is one of Building Healthy Communities South Kern’s priorities. And this park is an example of how community organizations can work together with local government to help build youth leadership.

Parks also help improve health outcomes. According to Kern County Network for Children’s 2016 Report Card, in Kern, “25.5 percent of 5th graders, 23.8 percent of 7th graders and 20.8 percent of 9th graders were in the high-risk category for body composition.”

The skate park was made possible thanks to a partnership between the City of Arvin, Bike Bakersfield, Tony Hawk Foundation, Mountain Side Disposal, and Building Healthy Communities South Kern.

BHC-SK applauds the City of Arvin for listening and wanting to engage youth in the design process. This partnership proves the rewarding results for a community when community groups work together with local government to create opportunities for young people.

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By Diana Cisneros

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Enrique Sanchez, 49, still remembers July 14, 2015. That was the date when laboratory tests confirmed what the trucker had: multiple myeloma.

It’s a cancer formed by plasma cells that have turned malignant. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system. Few cases of the disease are linked to risk factors that can be avoided, so there is no known way to prevent most multiple myelomas from developing.

The disease weakens the kidneys and bones. At the time of his diagnosis, Sanchez’s kidneys were functioning at 12 percent capacity. He developed a C-2 vertebral fracture because of which he couldn’t return to work, which resulted in an end to his employer-sponsored health benefits.

Sanchez’s life became a nightmare. He was jobless, had limited mobility and endless pain. Paying his medical bills and supporting his wife and three children, all of whom were in college, became very challenging.

As Sanchez transitioned into an unfamiliar world of medical jargon, he said he became scared. He feared what the future held for him.

Read more here.

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Kern County community leaders interested in learning about enhancing access to health in Kern are invited to attend Kern’s 2017 Call to Action Summit. To be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bakersfield on March 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on March 16 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Participants will have the opportunity to tour Arvin or McFarland and engage with various stakeholders and community leaders who are working to provide a safe and healthy environment for their residents.

To register for the event, please click here. For additional information call Tammy Fisher at (661) 321-3000.

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On Thursday, Jan. 19 the County of Kern hosted the State Senate Health Committee where members heard from public health organizations and residents about the human and economic impacts of the Medi-Cal expansion should it be repealed.
“Thanks for giving Kern residents the opportunity to tell you about the impact the Affordable Care Act has had in our lives,” said Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez during the hearing.
The California Endowment’s Dr. Tony Iton, also addressed the committee during public comment. He spoke about the devastating consequences a repeal would have on human health.
“It could be a devastating decision for Americans with mental illness,” said Dr. Iton. “Not the time to dismantle the health care safety net anywhere, particularly for a population that desperately needs it.”
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Building Healthy Communities South Kern’s Kern Education Justice Collaborative has launched a campaign to inform residents about the Local Control Funding Formula and encourage parents to give feedback on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP details the districts’ annual goals and details how funds will be spend to increase or improve services for students.

The KHSD has millions of dollars to use to help low-income students, foster youth and English Language Learners. Join us in telling the KHSD to stop focusing on guns and help our students graduate and get ready for their future.

Recently, the Kern High School District (KHSD) voted to allow teachers to carry handguns on campus, a vote in November that community members say was politics at its worst. The board held the meeting at unusual date and time, and chose to put their personal political agendas ahead of students’ needs.

For more information about this effort or to get involved, please call the KEJC at (661) 322-3033.

South Kern Sol, News Report, Marcus Castro

South Kern community members gathered at the #Agua4All rally to celebrate the installation of filters in certain locations throughout the South Kern that produce safe water, but also to discuss how that is just a start to fixing a larger problem.

The installation of 71 water stations and 88 point-of-use filters in the South Kern was the reason for celebration at the rally, which was held on April 5 at El Camino Real Elementary School in Arvin.

“It’s [filtration system installation] a big accomplishment, and we’re definitely here to celebrate because this is the largest project of its kind in all of the state,” said South Kern Community Programs Coordinator for the Community Water Center Jerry Tinoco as he spoke from the panel. The #Agua4all initiative is a project of The California Endowment and other groups including the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, the Community Water Center and Building Healthy Communities South Kern, which aims to increase access to safe drinking water.
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The panel of speakers at the rally consisted of Jerry Tinoco, Chief of Program Services for Clinica Sierra Vista Bill Phelps, Administrator of EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region Jared Blumenfeld, and Local Parent and Director of Maintenance, Operations, Transportation, Safety for Arvin Union School District Neftali Perez.

The new filtration systems is designed to use adsorption to remove contaminants from the water. The filters will be able to filter up to 960 gallons before having to be replaced, but there is currently work being done to create new filters that can filter more than 960 gallons before being replaced.

Blumenfeld explained that the filtration systems are cheap, therefore, they can be added in most places. He used the examples of the filters being added in locations such as schools, hospitals and homes.

The rally was a time for celebration, but it was also a time for realization as the speakers explained that the problem is not solved.

Tinoco said, “We’re not out of the woods quite yet. This is just an interim solution to a much larger problem.”

Tinoco explained that only a portion of the problem is fixed. He said now kids can go to school and have safe water to drink out of the water fountains, but he mentioned that when these kids go home, they drink water that is unsafe.

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According to California State Water Resources Control Board’s Annual Compliance Report, more than 1 million Californians do not have access to safe drinking water in their homes, schools or neighborhoods.

Water contamination is known to be associated with cancer, impaired development, diabetes and more.

“An exposure to unsafe water increased children and adults to risks that include learning disabilities and certain types of cancer,” said Phelps.

Phelps went on to say that it is critical for the community to have safe water as the human body needs water to function at a regular level.

Tinoco said that the community is small, and it is hard to get recognition from the state to move forward.

“Look at our community. It’s a small, farm working, low-income community. It’s pretty easy for lawmakers in Sacramento to forget about us,” said Tinoco.

Phelps mentioned that another problem is water isn’t affordable enough. He said that buying water in the communities where water is unsafe to drink shouldn’t be allowed to become a financial burden of families.

The main contaminant in the water is arsenic. Arsenic is a contaminant that naturally appears in rock and soil, but it also comes from fertilizers, pesticides, mining and more.

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The Maximum Contaminant Level for arsenic is 10 parts per billion. There are places in the South Kern that have nearly three times that amount in the water.

Arsenic is more likely to negatively affect children, infants and pregnant women.

People are exposed to arsenic not only through drinking it but through cooking with it as well.

Perez explained that in order to rid the water of arsenic and other contaminants, the community must work together.

Perez said, “I believe we can be successful as a community if we stay strong and united… I am committed to the goal, and I am committed to #Agua4All.”

Community Water Center, Rural Community Assistance Corporation and The California Endowment invite the community to celebrate the installation of over 70 water stations and point-of use filters in South Kern, which were installed as a temporary response to address the lack of clean drinking water in the area.

“The program will highlight the progress Arvin and Lamont have made to improve access to safe drinking water in our schools and neighborhoods and also remind our leaders that much more work remains to be done,” read a statement put out by Community Water Center today.

The community celebration and press conference will be held Tuesday, April 5 at 5 p.m. at El Camino Real Elementary School, 811 El Camino Real in Arvin.

To RSVP click hereCall Gerardo Tinoco at gerardo.tinoco@communitywatercenter.org or 661-345-9976 for more information.

The event is part of The California Endowment’s #Agua4All campaign.