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Combatting a Dental Health Epidemic

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By Scott Maier, UCSF News

 

In San Francisco, nearly 40 percent of children have experienced tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten, and low-income kindergartners are eight times more likely to have untreated tooth decay, reports the San Francisco Children’s Oral Health Collaborative (SF COH).

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Oral health disparities are specific to local neighborhoods, with the highest rates in Chinatown, where more than 50 percent of all kindergarteners suffer from cavities.

 

To inform and elicit community feedback about the importance of children’s oral health – and continue to learn why some ethnicities are more at-risk – the SF COH, which includes UC San Francisco, the SF Department of Public Health and community health providers and advocates, hosted a community stakeholder meeting on April 30 in Chinatown.

 

Attendees at the two-hour meeting at the Chinatown YMCA included City and County of San Francisco Supervisors Julie Christensen and Scott Wiener, and Health Commissioner Ed Chow.

 

“Good oral health is critical to the well-being of our city, and we need to expand access to dental care as well as healthy and nutritious food, particularly in our low-income communities,” Wiener said.

 

Similar stakeholder meetings are planned for Latino and African American communities in San Francisco.

 

“Because of this meeting, we were able to raise the level of awareness of children’s dental caries that is disproportionately affecting the Chinatown neighborhood,” said Lisa Chung, DDS, MPH, associate professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences and SF COH co-director.

 

“We were able to bring together local health and child care providers and organizations and engage in a spirited discussion about what could be causing these Chinatown disparities, existing barriers to addressing them, and how we can collaborate and move forward,” she said.

 

Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the two biggest threats to oral health and among the most common chronic diseases in the United States. In fact, former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin called oral diseases a “silent epidemic.”

 

Children with untreated cavities may experience pain, dysfunction, school absences, difficulty concentrating and low self-esteem, according to the SF COH.

 

“It is better to prevent tooth decay than to provide extensive dental treatment for a very young child,” said Dr. Steven Ambrose, director of Dental Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, a co-leading agency of the Children’s Oral Health Collaborative. “If we can help parents understand how to keep their babies’ teeth healthy, we can prevent unnecessary disease and pain, and promote and protect our children’s oral health in a far easier and cost-effective manner.”

 

Dental caries is largely preventable through dental sealants, fluoride varnish, healthy eating habits, daily oral care at home and routine dental visits. However, many parents, medical providers and even dental providers do not fully understand their critical roles in preventing this disease.

 

A cross-sector initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of all San Franciscans, the San Francisco Children’s Oral Health Collaborative coordinated the San Francisco Children’s Oral Health Strategic Plan 2014-2017 toward making the city cavity-free. The plan identifies the most effective, evidence-based actions each group can take to make the most impact. Target groups are children under 10, pregnant women, low-income communities of color, recent immigrants and other populations most at risk.

 

“Involving the community and collaborating with its members are essential in efforts to improve public health, and is at the core of SF HIP’s Children’s Oral Health Collaborative,” Chung said. “We prioritized this first meeting in Chinatown on public and private health professionals and Chinatown program planners, community leaders, and school administrators as they are working closest with the target population – young children and their caregivers.”

 

The San Francisco Children’s Oral Health Collaborative is supported by the Hellman Foundation. The Chinatown community stakeholder meeting was sponsored by the Chinatown YMCA, the Asian Pacific Islander Health Parity Coalition, APA Family Support Services, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition and API Council.

City Government

Opinion: We Can Protect Public Employee Pensions and the Environment

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

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Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)
Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)

By Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Special to California Black Media Partners  

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

I trust CalSTRS and CalPERS to make sound investment decisions that prioritize stable, dignified retirement benefits for California teachers and public employees. I also believe that the climate crisis is a real, existential threat to our state, nation and world. California can and must act to reverse this crisis and preserve our fragile environment for generations to come. That is why California has led our nation by phasing out the sale of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035 and becoming carbon net-zero by 2045.

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, I am committed to protecting the retirement funds of teachers and other public employees. My record is clear. I also represent a coastal district, home to some of California’s most famous beaches along with majority Black and Brown communities that are working to achieve the environmental justice that they and all communities deserve. My record is clear here too: I have, and will continue, to be a champion for protecting the environment.

Last year, SB 252, by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), came before my committee, which would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from its fossil fuel investments by 2031. At the time, I expressed concern that teachers and other public employees were largely absent from the conversation – after all, it is their money – and asked that the Author and the bill’s supporters work with public sector labor unions to take a position on this legislation.

A year later, although a few public sector labor unions expressed their support for SB 252, many others did not. In fact, a number of police, fire, and other public employee unions oppose the bill. As a compromise, I offered the Author amendments that would align CalPERS and CalSTRS divestment from fossil fuels with California’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. It was a real path to divestment that still allowed CalPERS and CalSTRS to take early divestment action if they decided to do so. The Author declined to accept the amendments, which was followed by her decision to cancel the bill being heard in my committee. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to protect public employee pensions and show global leadership by divesting from fossil fuel companies once and for all.

To be clear, if CalPERS and CalSTRS wanted to divest from fossil fuel companies they could – today. Together, CalPERS and CalSTRS have committed over $100 billion in investments to sustainable energy and using the power of their investment portfolios to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. More can and must be done to not just green our economy, but green our public pension systems.

I encourage the author and the supporters of SB 252 to reintroduce the measure next legislative session with my proposed amendments and work closely with our public sector labor partners to find greater consensus with the environmental community on this issue. We do not have to choose between protecting public employee pensions and protecting the environment – we can do both. But we cannot risk the solvency of current and future public employee retirement benefits without consensus from our public workers.

It is their money after all.

About the Author 

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor serves as Chair of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee and represents the cities and communities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont in Los Angeles County.

Connect with Assemblymember McKinnor on social media: @AsmTinaMcKinnor

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Bay Area

Pan-Hellenic Council Awards Scholarships to Hundreds of High School Seniors

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

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More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.
More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.

By Tuseda A. Graggs

Special to The Post

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

The event, held at Merritt College in the Huey P. Newton-Bobby Seale Student Center, honored the accomplishments of high school seniors from schools throughout the Bay Area. More than 300 people attended the two-hour event.

Students received scholarships from Bay Area chapters of the Black Greek letter organizations – better known as the Divine 9 –which include: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

Oakland City Councilwoman Treva Reid (District 7) encouraged students to persevere through the challenges that they will inevitably face in college. She discussed her challenges of becoming pregnant at Hampton University, birthing her daughter, and struggling financially yet sticking it out and graduating from college.

Shanga Goman, the City of Oakland’s former Youth Poet Laureate also blessed attendees with a motivational poem providing guidance to his younger self as a college student.

In addition to the tuition scholarships awarded, the Pan Hellenic Council drew numbers to give away six $500 book scholarships and two dozen gift cards for students.

For more information about the National Pan Hellenic Council – San Francisco Bay Area and about the Bay Area’s Black Greek Letter Organizations, please visit https://www.sfbaynphc.com/.

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California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Padilla and Butler Support Bill That Would Double Pell Grants

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

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California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.
California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.

By California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the sponsor of the bill.

Butler, a former recipient of a Pell Grant, highlighted that the program helped her further her studies and afford a college education.

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Butler.

“We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed,” she said.

With this new initiative, the program will index maximum awards for inflation. If passed, the measure will make Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls. The act would also restore eligibility for the program up to 18 semesters for students.

Padilla, a first-generation college graduate, acknowledged that the Pell Grant supported his goal to attend college and overcome financial challenges.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Padilla.

“As a proud, first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb,” he said.

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