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The Gift of Health: Update on H1N1 Virus

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By Ngoc Nguyen –

H1N1 virus has no cure, but there is a way to prevent it … get vaccinated! That’s the message health experts around the state are telling the public, even though H1N1 flu cases have peaked.

“It’s much too early to let our guard down,” says Ken August, spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health. “H1N1 flu cases may be decreasing, but [the virus] is not going away.”

The first two confirmed H1N1 cases in the country were found in California, and now a majority of counties in the state have reported at least one case of H1N1. The virus has hospitalized more than 7,546 Californians and caused nearly 397 deaths, according to the latest state data (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/H1N1Home.aspx).

The state estimates that more than 3 million Californians have become ill from the H1N1 flu.

“The vast majority of flu illnesses are of the H1N1 strain. We’re seeing almost none of the seasonal flu strain right now,” said August, who emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated against the strain that is out there the most.

As of early December, California has ordered 7 million doses of H1N1 vaccine. The number of doses ordered so far is enough to vaccinate about 18 percent of the state’s population against H1N1. Early supply problems hampered mass vaccination efforts, said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., public health officer for Los Angeles County.

“That’s really caused a lot of problems, because expectations were heightened, and we didn’t have enough vaccine to fulfill them and that caused anxiety,” he said. Los Angeles County has received 1.4 million doses, whereas the high-risk group is 5.5 million people, Fielding said.

Pregnant women, children, young adults under age 24 and people of all ages with chronic conditions are at increased risk of infection and complications from the flu. Health officials emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated against H1N1 flu, especially those in high-risk groups, and they said it is not too late to do so. As it takes up to two weeks after a vaccination for the body to develop immunity, those who want to protect themselves during the holiday season should get immunized in the next two weeks.

The experts say the epidemic has crested for now, but we’re likely to see additional waves. “We’ve already had a second, we could see a third wave,” said Fielding. The first wave of H1N1 infections occurred in the spring (April-June), with cases dropping off, but never disappearing, during the summer. Infections spiked again in October, after students went back to school.

Takashi Wada, M.D., public health officer for the City of Pasadena, said H1N1 cases could rebound again after the New Year, as people tend to congregate indoors more during the winter and travel over the holidays.

In Santa Clara County, H1N1 hospitalizations and school absenteeism have leveled off, according to Joy Alexiou, spokesperson for the county public health department. But, getting vaccinated is still a good idea, she says, because flu activity is still high. “Flus are notorious for changing and getting unpredictable,” Alexiou said. “Will there be another wave after the first of this year? We don’t know.” The message: Better to be safe than sorry. Get vaccinated.

Gift of Health is supported by grants from The California Endowment and California Community Foundation.

SCE Reaches Out to Customers to Help Lower Their Bills

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This holiday season, many Californians find themselves facing tough financial situations, and Southern California Edison (SCE) is reaching out to help. According to a recent survey, about 12 percent of SCE’s customers – 480,000 – are having trouble paying their bills.

SCE is asking its customers to call the utility as soon as they think they will have problems paying their electricity bills.

“There are so many ways we can work with our customers,” said Lynda Ziegler, SCE’s senior vice president, Customer Service. “We encourage them to call us so we are aware they need help.

We have many programs and services that provide various forms of assistance.”

SCE offers the following programs for customers:

· The California Alternate Rate for Energy (CARE) program provides a discount of 20 percent or more on income-qualifying customers’ monthly electric bills. There are 1.2 million SCE customers enrolled in CARE; an additional 193,000 customers are eligible, but have not enrolled.

· FERA, the Family Electric Rate Assistance program, allows a discounted rate on the monthly bill for families of three or more who fall within the income guidelines and exceed their baseline usage by 30 percent or more.

· EMA, the Energy Management Assistance program, helps income-qualified households conserve energy and reduce their electricity costs. SCE supplies and installs energy-efficient appliances and equipment at no cost to eligible customers. EMA services are available to homeowners and renters.

· EAF, the Energy Assistance Fund, grants up to $100 per year to help customers who cannot pay their electric bills. The grants are administered by assistance agencies. EAF is funded by donations from SCE employees, customers and Edison International, SCE’s publicly held parent company.

· SCE can offer assistance to customers having difficulty paying their bills through payment plans or extensions. Reaching out to SCE as soon as customers recognize they may have problems paying their bills will help avoid disconnections and the fees and deposits that often are required to restore service.

· Customers who rely on electronic medical equipment may be eligible for the Medical Baseline discounted rate.

· Customers who need additional help should call 211 to connect with community service programs throughout California.

To learn more about these programs and other ways SCE helps customers keep current on their bills, please visit www.sce.com/assistance or call 1-800-369-3652.

In addition, SCE encourages all customers to keep bills low by conserving energy.

Information on payment plans, household energy guzzlers, and rebates and savings are at www.sce.com/highbillhelper.

Customers also can learn many easy ways to save energy at www.sce.com/tips.

California Complete Count Announces Grants to fund Census

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The California Complete Count effort today announced the availability of 1 million dollars in grants to fund outreach efforts in thirteen counties. The funding will be offered to County Complete Count Committees in the top thirteen Hardest-to-Count (HTC) counties – allowing targeted funds to reach 80 percent of the HTC population in the state.

“Engaging hard-to-count communities is at the heart of our outreach strategy in 2010,” said Census 2010 Director Ditas Katague. “These counties provide important services to Californians that may be missed by the Census. This is the perfect opportunity to ensure that these populations are included.”

The HTC counties were ranked based on their share of the Census 2000 undercount and from figures derived by Department of Finance population projections. HTC refers to people and communities that have been shown to be most at risk of being missed in the census.

The Census Bureau identifies HTC communities according to twelve different factors, including housing status, poverty, population mobility, and language spoken at home.

In order for the counties to be eligible for funding, County Complete Count Committees must submit a general plan outlining their outreach strategy and how their efforts coordinate and leverage existing federal, state and community outreach activities.

The California Complete Count effort, coordinated out of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, will review general plans, provide technical assistance and allocate the funds in early 2010.

The counties below were identified as the top thirteen HTC in the State along with the estimated proportional percent of dollars allocation based on undercount, HTC and non-response rates from Census 2000:

1. Los Angeles 43.0%

2. San Diego 8.88%

3. Orange 8.5%

4. San Bernardino 6.63%

5. Riverside 5.25%

6. Alameda 5.0%

7. Santa Clara 4.38%

8. Sacramento 4.0%

9. Fresno 3.88%

10. San Francisco 3.13%

11. Kern 2.88%

12. Contra Costa 2.38%

13. San Joaquin 2.13%

National Census Day is April 1, 2010.

A complete and accurate count of California’s population is essential to the State to ensure adequate funding and representation over the next ten years. The decennial Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and participation is required by law. The questionnaire for the upcoming 2010 Census will be one of the shortest in the history: just 10 questions that will take only 10 minutes to complete. All responses are kept strictly confidential.

 

Upon This Rock

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In hard times Black Churches swing doors open even wider

By BVN Staff –

Throughout the history of the African American people there has been no stronger resource for overcoming adversity than the Black Church. From its role in leading a group of free Blacks to form a colony in Sierra Leone in the 1790s to helping ex-slaves after the Civil War; to playing major roles in the Civil Rights Movement; to offering community outreach programs in American cities today, black churches have been the focal point of sustainability and social change in their communities.

It comes as no surprise that in these times of budget cuts and partisan rancor over government’s role in providing social services, Black churches are de facto first responders addressing pressing human needs, including emergency food, clothing and shelter.

“No matter what the financial situation of the economy, among the least of these and the left out we are the seat of hope. The church remains the rock in a weary land,” explains Temple Missionary Baptist Church senior pastor Raymond Turner.

At the Temple Outreach Center located in the T. Hughes Building in San Bernardino, Pastor Turner takes a hands-on approach to the church’s outreach ministry. Four days after Christmas he huddles with front line workers including the center’s executive director Loistine Herndon.

“We don’t take community outreach lightly. Faith-based outreach centers have long been an oasis amid the storms. Hard times simply make that reality more evident,” says Herndon.

“We’re not strangers to struggle, depression or crisis,” says Turner. “The message through the years has been consistent: We preach and deliver hope.” We’re saying to the people in our community: “don’t sit back and wait for the recovery.”

“The economic rebound is coming. We have to prepare. We are our best stimulus plan. We are our best recovery package,” says Turner, co-founder of the Westside community advocacy organization, Inland Empire Concerned African-American Churches.

Indeed, the Black church’s historic role in providing Blacks with education, social services, and a safe gathering place prefigured its historic role in the civil rights movement.

Meanwhile, Temple and other churches in the region’s underserved communities are supplementing messages of faith and hope with practical teachings on nutrition, health, parenting, relationships, finances, job searching, entrepreneurship and business ownership.

That means says Turner we’re replacing hopelessness with self sufficiency through education.

For example “You won’t see long lines of desperate people waiting for food and shelter here. We bring them in from the winter cold and summer heat – and teach them how to cook and serve a nutritious meal. That’s self sufficiency.”

This year before giving out Thanksgiving baskets, he says people had to take three nutrition classes.

“Take the classes – get a basket. What’s more the people helped prepare the meal that went into those baskets. So when they sat down to eat and fellowship they got an education on nutrition and obesity as well.”

The T. Hughes Building acquired by Temple in 2003 was originally built by Councilwoman Valarie Pope Ludlam and Talmage Hughes. Herndon says essential services once considered government staples are an important part of the church’s faith mission and mandate.

“With our national health care system cracked and breaking and government cutting essential services to the poor we’re being called to fill the gap in the safety net. The work of our churches has never been more important,” said Herndon.

“We offer workshops on life skills, simple but essential tools like how to manage your money. It’s amazing how learning to balance a checkbook can help empower an entire community.”

She says programs such as life saving CPR, nutritional instruction and other health services help sustain families struggling with everything from foreclosure to depression.”

By partnering with local hospitals and national organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Diabetic Association the church has a direct hand in preventing disease and desperation.

Once a year, Temple offers a CPR instruction workshop to those who otherwise could not afford such training. Herndon says heart disease, obesity, diabetes prevent ion and exercise instruction promotes personal responsibility and makes for an overall healthier community.

“Outreach is more than the ministry of the church. It’s the ministry of Christ in partnership with the church.”

The bottom line says Pastor Turner “Black churches are more than the gospel…”

He points out, in the Bible, in every story where you find famine in the land, by the end of the chapter, “you find blessing, overflowing abundant blessing.

Through our actions we show the people we care.”

“There’s an old saying, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’.”

Union Bank Donates Nearly Half A Ton In Clothing And Accessories To Women's Center

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Union Bank, N.A., donated nearly half a ton of gently-used business suits, shoes, purses, dresses, jewelry and other items to the Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) to celebrate the new year as part of an ongoing partnership with the organization that provides housing and other resources for homeless women needing transitional assistance.

“Giving back is part of our culture at Union Bank, and we were thrilled with the huge response we received from our bankers, especially our female executives,” said Ruth Edwards, Union Bank senior vice president.

“Almost every woman has either known a homeless person or has come perilously close herself, so we salute and support the work of the DWC.”

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