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Highlighting public health issues and ways to improve personal, family, neighborhood and community health 

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The Pillars of Public Health
A pillar is "a person or thing regarded as reliably providing essential support for something". In Fresno County, the public health, that is, the opportunity for each and every one of us to live to our full potential of health and well-being, rests firmly atop eight such pillars. Each of these pillars is essential to the structure of public health, and all must be themselves intact, and perfectly aligned with each other. Learn more about these Eight Pillars of Public Health and how health and wellness is constructed around them in Fresno County. For more information click here

Beware the Fungus Among Us
August 15, 2017

Of all the factors rather unique to our valley that negatively impact our health and well-being (such as concentrated poverty, consistently poor air quality, low health care provider to population ratios, etc.) one of the most unique is a fungal threat known as coccidioidomycosis or Valley fever. Click here to read more...

The Public Health Aspects of Food Deserts     

July 20, 2017
For each and every one of us, every new day brings significant challenges as far as selecting, obtaining, preparing, and eating those foods known to maximize our health and well-being. But what of those individuals who have never been familiarized with healthful nutrition, who don’t have access to a car, or even convenient mass transit, for trips to grocery stores or supermarkets several neighborhoods away (but who can fairly easily walk to the two or three liquor and convenience stores and one to two fast food joints within a couple of blocks), who cannot afford to pay for the limited, poor quality fruits and vegetables and leaner meats that might be available in these convenience stores, and who are not familiar with the least expensive ways to prepare tasty healthful meals? Click here to read more...    

Preparing for Disaster
June 28, 2017
Disasters or emergencies can occur at any moment, at any place, and with very little, or no, warning. Causes can be natural, as with an earthquake, tornado, infectious illness outbreak, wildfire, extreme heat or flood. Or they can be man-made, as in a biological, chemical, blast, or radiological attack or accident. They can also come in the form of a personal accident (a fall, poisoning, near drowning, choking or severe cut). The results are too often very tragic. Click here to read more...    


The MAP to Well-being in Fresno County   
May 4, 2017
Mental illness is complicated. Solving homelessness is hard. Substance abuse complicates these situations. Individuals dealing with one or more of these conditions are among our community’s most at-risk populations. Often these individuals place unnecessary demands on public safety services and congest emergency rooms because there has been no other solution. Far too often these individuals, in such desperate need, are shuffled back and forth between agencies due to lack of space, regulations, and funding restrictions, with considerable confusion as to who should go where, and when.

Now imagine how this could change if you happen to reach out for assistance someplace easily accessible, where you are made welcome and are immediately, appropriately and thoroughly screened for ALL services needed to begin to turn your life around. Click here to read more...    

Why We Need Eight Pillars of Public Health   

March 28, 2017
There is a prevailing belief in this country, founded in its very birth as a nation, that our individual health and well-being are our personal responsibility, a direct result of the sum of our behaviors and actions. Certainly this is true. However, to a larger or smaller extent for each of us, the opportunities for more healthful behaviors and actions, those more likely to lead to good health and well-being, are frequently unavailable.  Click here to read more...    

Harm Reduction in Fresno County

February 2, 2017
Imagine, if you will, struggling for years with an overwhelming addiction to an IV injected drug, finally overcoming that addiction to begin a new chapter in your life in recovery, only to find you must now also battle Hepatitis C or HIV.  Click here to read more... 

Climate Change

December 21, 2016
Extraordinary work has begun, and huge gains have been made, here recently in the coalescence and focus of numerous collaborations and collective impact activity to address poor health outcomes. But I’d like to discuss a factor, which if not addressed in these efforts, is bound to delay or reverse any progress in improving the aforementioned health outcomes. Click here to read more... 

Legionnaires' Disease - Responding to an Emerging Infectious Disease
November 17, 2016 
An infectious disease that has newly appeared in a population or that has been known for some time but is rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range is referred to as an emerging infectious disease. An example of such an illness being dealt with today is Legionnaires’ disease (LD). Click here to read more... 

ACEs and Public Health 
September 27, 2016
Eighteen years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with Kaiser Permanente, published a study which demonstrated, what today seems fairly intuitive to most of us, and that is that childhood maltreatment not only results in the immediate health consequences of injury and illness, but also leads to increased risk of chronic disease and early death in adulthood. Click here to read more...

What's a Zoonosis?
August 22, 2016
There are a variety of subtly different definitions of the term zoonosis, but for me a zoonosis is a disease that moves between humans and animals. There are over 200 zoonotic diseases, and it may surprise you to know that just over 6 in 10 human pathogens are zoonotic.  Click here to read more...

Addressing the Opioid Overdose Epidemic
July 6, 2016
Prescription painkiller abuse is now one of the fastest growing public health concerns in the U.S. and the personal toll that opioid abuse takes on individuals, their friends, and their families is alarming.  Click here to read more...

Hepatitis C, A Slow, Silent Killer
June 17, 2016
An estimated 3.5 million persons in the United States are living with an infection that causes approximately 20,000 deaths each year, and more than half of those infected are unaware of it. The infection is the most common cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; a major cause of liver cancer; and the most common indication for liver transplant in this country. it is also the most common blood-borne infection nationally. Click here to read more,,,

Thoughts on Health Illiteracy and Health Care Provider Shortage in Fresno County
May 9, 2016
...there are two factors in play here in Fresno County and the Central Valley that keep much of the promise of the ACA beyond our grasp. These are our poor health literacy and our insufficient number of health care providers, especially primary care providers. The adverse effect of these two factors, in combination, is more than the sum of the two. Click here to read more...

Syphilis in Fresno County
March 29, 2016
April is STD (sexually transmitted disease) Prevention Month. It reminds us all how destructive these illnesses can be to our individual and collective health. Nothing can draw our awareness of, and attention to, these illnesses more than the devastating effects some of them can have on our unborn and newborn babies when they are passed to them from an infected mother. Click here to read more...

Poison Prevention
March 18, 2016
Unintentional poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. According to the CDC about 9 of 10 accidental poisonings occur in the home, and 60% of these victims are younger than 6. Each year across North America thousands of children are treated in emergency departments after consuming poisonous substances. Click here to read more...

The Public Health Aspects of Dental Care
March 1, 2016
We’ve all heard advertisements for dental care that tell us that a healthy mouth is more than an attractive smile. The fact is oral health is an issue of huge significance to our personal and public health. Not only is our mouth the portal to our digestive system, it serves a key role in our personal interactions and socialization, and is a major point of introduction of infection and chronic inflammation. Click here to read more...

What You Need to Know About HIV and AIDS
February 2, 2016
HIV remains a serious health problem with around 50,000 new infections in this country each year since the mid 1990’s. Sadly, it is estimated that 1 in 8 people infected with HIV are not aware that they are. Click here to read more...  

Collective Impact and the Future of Public Health in Fresno County
January 5, 2016
As we begin this New Year let me tell you why I take immense pride in being this county’s health officer and why I see remarkable promise for our health and well-being as Fresnans. Click here to read more...

Health and Mental Health Inequities 
December 1, 2015
Let us imagine two babies born on the same day in Fresno County with very similar genetic predisposition for intellectual, emotional, and physical capacities and similar family dynamics. The only real differences are the color of their skin and significant environmental and socioeconomic factors where they will grow up. At age 40 there will be gaping differences in the health and well-being status between these two babies.  Click here to read more...

Reducing Preterm Birth in Fresno County 
November 4, 2015
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th marks World Prematurity Day. This day is designated to draw awareness to the devastating affects of this major public health issue.  Click here to read more...

Get the Lead Out of Fresno County
October 13, 2015
A seldom considered, but persisting, serious and significant public health problem in the United States is lead poisoning (sometimes referred to as plumbism). National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 25 -31) gives us the opportunity to make everyone aware of this threat.  Click here to read more...

Impact of Teen Sexual Activity on Public Health
August 20, 2015
If you live in the United States, are younger than 25, and are sexually active, your chance of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is the same as making a wrong call on a coin toss. In other words, one in every two sexually active persons will acquire an STD by age 25. Click here to read more...

Traffic Fatalities
July 28, 2015
It is tragic that seldom a week goes by without a Fresno County traffic related fatality. In Fresno County in 2013, 149 people died in traffic associated accidents. Click here to read more...

Quality Air
June 1, 2015
A well-documented prescription for prevention and management of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes is physical activity. Yet such a prescription here in our valley may actually contribute to many chronic diseases if done outdoors at the wrong times.  Click here to read more...

Reducing Chronic Diseases
April 22, 2015 
Prevention of chronic diseases is an essential building block for achievement of individual and community well-being. Nationally, as well as statewide and locally, chronic diseases contribute to the significant dual impacts of disability and premature death. These can be quantifiable measured in lives and dollars. While it is difficult to dispute that personal responsibility and commitment are vital to improved health, it is equally difficult to dispute that society as a whole has made it too easy for us to default to the unhealthy choice in our day to day life. Still worse, healthy options continue to be unavailable to many. Click here to read more...

Education is the Keystone
March 10, 2015
Education is the keystone to well-being, equity, and the realization of full potential which is public health. Public, private, or in-home education lays a foundation for long term health outcomes. Most, if not all, public health problems can be traced back to root causes that include inadequate education. Even when public health challenges are highly rooted in poverty, inequitable power balances, and racism, education plays a significant role in the outcome. Inadequate education includes incomplete knowledge, poor life-skill preparation, or insufficient self-respect and sensitivity. Any gap in education can lead to a deficiency in public health at some level. Click here to read more...

Why We Vaccinate 
February 10, 2015
The horrible toll of human suffering and death taken by epidemics of infectious diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria have been recognized and accurately described for centuries, even millennia. Only in relatively recent history has the ability to protect populations against transmission of certain infectious diseases been possible. The scientific breakthrough which allows this achievement is termed "vaccination". Click here to read more...

Eliminate TB in Fresno County
January 21, 2015 
Last year, 51 Fresno County residents were sickened with a severe illness that many believe to be a disease of the past.  Tragically, 8 of these individuals died.  The disease is tuberculosis and it remains a significant local and global concern. Click here to read more...

The Cost of Smoking - Part 2
December 19, 2014
Local stores play an important role in our communities. They help shape the economic liveliness, quality, and safety of local neighborhoods. The products that stores carry and promote also influence the health of the people who shop in them and the people in the surrounding neighborhood. Learn more about how storefront advertising impacts young people, new tobacco products, local efforts to promote healthier retail environments and restrict wiping, and how to talk with children and teens about tobacco by clicking here

The Cost of Smoking - Part 1
 December 2, 2014
While there have been many successes over the last 20 years in reducing the burden of tobacco, these products continue to affect health and take an economic toll in our communities. In California, smoking costs $21 for every $1 that is earned from the tobacco tax. According to the University of California San Francisco, the total annual cost of smoking in California is $18.1 billion. This dollar figure includes direct healthcare costs for individuals as well as costs from lost productivity due to illness and early death. In Fresno County, smoking costs $421.2 million annually. Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death, disease, and disability in California and in the United States. Click here to read more.

Archive of Letters from Dr. Bird

I would like to hear from you. What does a healthy Fresno County look like to you? Email me at
Here's to your health!

Dr. Ken Bird

Fresno County Health Officer

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