Just like that, another year is coming to a close. And what a year it’s been on the health beat. I’m going to wager that you can guess what the top news story of the year was on this (or any) health blog. Technically, several Obamacare stories were Top 10 most-viewed posts on this site, but since one of them was from last year, I’m just giving all Affordable Care Act stories one slot.
- The Rollout of Obamacare — From Jan. 3 when the federal government approved California’s exchange through the state vs. county debate about funding the Medi-Cal expansion to the May release of plans and premiums to the launch of Covered California and the many challenges — and successes — since then, the implementation of the ACA has dominated health news coverage. If you’ve got questions about how the law affects you and your family, check out our Obamacare Guide, just for Californians. And if you just want to be entertained, watch this video of “President Obama” telling you to “sign up while it’s hot.”
- Childhood Vaccines — the state released its annual report on immunization status of kindergarteners and Marin County had the highest personal-belief exemption rate in the Bay Area. We simplified the state data to make it easy for you to look up your child’s school online and see what percentage of children have been vaccinated — or had parents who had opted out. On Jan. 1, 2014, a new state law goes into effect requiring parents who want to opt out of vaccines to meet with a health provider first. Washington instituted such a law in 2011 and the number of parents opting out of vaccines has dropped more than 25 percent.
- Soda Tax — efforts to pass taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages failed in Richmond and El Monte in 2012, but advocates are moving full steam ahead. A February Field Poll found that the majority of Californians surveyed support a soda tax — if the proceeds will benefit children’s health. Two members of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors are backing a soda tax in the county. Look for more on that in 2014.
- HIV “Cure” — while the story did not happen in California, researchers and advocates here were electrified by the news of a toddler who appeared to have been cured of HIV. The baby was born to an HIV-positive mother who did not receive anti-retroviral drugs during pregnancy. The baby was started on medication when she was 30 hours old and stayed on them until she was about 18 months when the mother stopped giving her medication, apparently because of her chaotic life circumstances.
- Valley Fever — The Reporting on Health Collaboration has done great work bringing attention to valley fever, an illness too well-known in the Central Valley and other parts of the desert southwest, but virtually ignored by the rest of the country. The number of valley fever cases skyrocketed 850 percent from 1998 to 2011, as the collaboration reported earlier this year. In September, federal officials attending a symposium in Bakersfield on valley fever said they will commence a clinical trial to determine base practices to treat the condition.
- Breast Density Notification Law — on April 1, a law went into effect requiring doctors to notify women if they had dense breast tissue. Women with extremely dense breast tissue are at increased risk of breast cancer, and the new law requires that they be notified if a doctor determines (usually from a mammogram) that a woman has this condition. The problem? Breast density is graded from 1 (not dense) to 4 (extremely dense). Under the law, women who have a 3 rating will also be notified — even though there is no solid evidence that women with a 3 rating are at increased risk of breast cancer.
- Does Sleep Deprivation Makes you Crave Junk Food? — this was a short story about a small study (only 23 people) with eyebrow-raising results: study participants who were not allowed to sleep had a much higher preference for high-calorie food than healthy food. It seems that when you’re sleep deprived an area of the brain that is associated with desire to eat is lit up, which three areas of the brain that deal with decision-making slow down.