Riverside Ranks 28th On Annual Fit City Index

(This article contains excerpts from an article featured in theievoice.com, published on July 5, 2014)

Summer is finally here, and everyone’s attention shifting towards health and fitness.  The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) with support from Anthem Blue Cross Foundation,unveiled it’s seventh annual American Fitness Index (AFI) data report during the organizations annual meeting.

Photo credit: americanfitnessindex.org/

Photo credit: americanfitnessindex.org/

The Riverside area ranked 28th in the 2014 report with a overall score of 47.5 (out of as possible 100 points).  The 2014 AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,” reflects a composite of preventative health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity.  “Health advocates and community leaders have come to expect the arrival of the American Fitness Index as an annual check-up regarding their community’s health and fitness levels,” said Walter Thompson, Ph,D., FACSM, chair of the AFI advisory board.

“The AFI data report is a snapshot of the state of health in the community and an evaluation of the infastructure, community assets and policies that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles.  These measures directly affect quality of life in our country’s urban areas,” says Thompson.

Only through commitment and dedication was our beloved city of Riverside able to claim the 28th spot on the AFI report for 2014.  Riverside is a location of choice where health and fitness are priorities among its inhabitants.  An unmatched landscape, year-round outdoor activities, ample recreational options and attention to healthy living make Riverside one of the most inspiring, livable, healthy and adventurous cities to live in or visit. 

To read more, click here.


Local Foundation Invests $2.4 Million Into Riverside Community in 2013

(Excerpts from this post were taken from a Press Release posted by Riverside Community Health Foundation on January 27th, 2014)

Riverside Community Health Foundation (RCHF), a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the community, invested over $2.4 million into the Riverside Community through its programs and grants in 2013.  Seizing Our Destiny pillar, Location of Choice, specifically mentions healthy living as a characteristic of a good quality of life.

Jana Webb, DO, of Borrego Health provides care at the Eastside Health Center. . Photo Credit to Chase Photography

Jana Webb, DO, of Borrego Health provides
care at the Eastside Health Center.
Photo Credit to Chase Photography

The impact of RCHF’s 2013 grants, which totaled over $1.2 million, will be felt at some of largest medical centers that serve Riverside residents: Parkview Community Hospital received $173,500 to install a new nurse call system that will provide reliable communication for patients and nurses and an additional $100,000 for a new surgival microscope that will be used in delicate procedures; Riverside County Regional Medical Center (RCRMC) Foundation was awarded $169,312 to provide Infusion PC Devices and Pump Modules for intravenous therapy use for the Emergency Department and Same Day Surgery Department at RCRMC.

“As always, we like to ensure that our grant dollars will have an immediate impact on the healthcare residents of Riverside receive,” said Dr. Dan Anderson, President/CEO of RCHF.  “This year we were not only able to help two of the hospitals serving Riverside improve the care they are able to provide, we were also able to ensure that more people received access to quality care through our grants focused on funding healthcare coverage for the uninsured.”

Inland Empire Health Plan was awarded $300,000 to provide insurance for children under the age of 19 through their Healthy Kids Program.  Also amont RCHF’s 2013 grantees is Borrego Health, who received funding to increase outreach and enrollment for eligible individuals of Covered California and Medi-Cal.  Borrego currently has six outreach workers inthe Riverside area  that are located at the Arlanza Family Health Center and Eastside Health Center, clinics that RCHF owns and Borrego operates, but who travel extensively in the community to provide information about healthcare options to residents. The group has helped enroll nearly 300 residents so far.

RCHF Vice President Ninfa Delgado provides information to interested parties about RCHF’s grants program.

RCHF Vice President Ninfa Delgado provides information
to interested parties about RCHF’s grants program.

RCHF also invested another $1.2 million into the community through its health education and prevention programs, which provide nearly 100,000 interventions yearly.  “Our programs address many of the health concerns of our community,” said Anderson. “We are proud of our roots as a true community organization working with residents to make sure their needs are being met.  I believe this year’s program funding underscores our commitment to make healthcare and education accessible for everyone in Riverside.”

Click here to see the Press Release.

Discovery May Improve Insect Repellants

(This article includes excerpts from the article written by Mark Muckenfuss and published in The Press Enterprise on October 3, 2013.)

UC Riverside researchers say they have found the long-sought receptors in mosquitoes that are affected by DEET, the most common active ingredient used in popular insect repellents.

Identifying the receptors, they say, could lead to more effective and less annoying chemicals for deterring mosquitoes, as well as other insect pests. One compound they’ve identified so far is a grape extract that, unlike DEET, doesn’t damage plastic and nylon. The study appeared Wednesday in the latest online edition of Nature.

(Photo Credit: 2011/File Photo, The Press-Enterprise)

(Photo Credit: 2011/File Photo, The Press-Enterprise)

Anandasankar Ray, pictured above, an associate professor of entomology and the study’s director, said the discovery opens new doors for dealing with mosquito-borne illness as well as other insect-related problems, possibly even as treatments for agricultural crops. Finding better ways to keep the insects at bay is important worldwide, where mosquito-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.

In recent years, Ray’s lab has made other mosquito discoveries, such as finding ways to block a mosquito’s ability to detect carbon dioxide, the primary method it uses to find human or animal prey.  Discoveries such as this demonstrate Riverside as a leader in Catalyst for Innovation, a pillar of Seizing Our Destiny.

This most recent work, he said, “is certainly as important if not, potentially, more important than our earlier discovery.”

Read the full article here.

UC Riverside Researchers Create a ‘Window to the Brain’

(As written by Sean Nealon and published September 3, 2013 by UCR Today)

A team of University of California, Riverside researchers have developed a novel transparent skull implant that literally provides a “window to the brain,” which they hope will eventually open new treatment options for patients with life-threatening neurological disorders, such as brain cancer and traumatic brain injury.

(Members of the research team, from left, Javier Garay, Yasuhiro Kodera, Carissa L. Reynolds, Yasaman Damestani, Guillermo Aguilar, Masaru P. Rao and B. Hyle Park. Photo Credit: UCR Today)

(Members of the research team, from left, Javier Garay, Yasuhiro Kodera, Carissa L. Reynolds, Yasaman Damestani, Guillermo Aguilar, Masaru P. Rao and B. Hyle Park. Photo Credit: UCR Today)

The team’s implant is made of the same ceramic material currently used in hip implants and dental crowns, yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ). However, the key difference is that their material has been processed in a unique way to make it transparent. Since YSZ has already proven itself to be well-tolerated by the body in other applications, the team’s advancement now allows use of YSZ as a permanent window through which doctors can aim laser-based treatments for the brain, importantly, without having to perform repeated craniectomies, which involve removing a portion of the skull to access the brain.

The work also dovetails with President Obama’s recently-announced BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which aims to revolutionize the understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders. The team envisions potential for their YSZ windows to facilitate the clinical translation of promising brain imaging and neuromodulation technologies being developed under this initiative.

“This is a case of a science fiction sounding idea becoming science fact, with strong potential for positive impact on patients,” said Guillermo Aguilar, a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE).

Aguilar is part of the 10-person team, comprised of faculty, graduate students and researchers from UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering and School of Medicine, who recently published a paper “Transparent Nanocrystalline Yttria-Stabilized-Zirconia Calvarium Prosthesis” about their findings online in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

Laser-based treatments have shown significant promise for many brain disorders. However, realization of this promise has been constrained by the need for performing a craniectomy to access the brain since most medical lasers are unable to penetrate the skull. The transparent YSZ implants developed by the UC Riverside team address this issue by providing a permanently implanted view port through the skull.

“This is a crucial first step towards an innovative new concept that would provide a clinically-viable means for optically accessing the brain, on-demand, over large areas, and on a chronically-recurring basis, without need for repeated craniectomies,” said team member Dr. Devin Binder, a clinician and an associate professor of biomedical sciences at UC Riverside.

Although the team’s YSZ windows are not the first transparent skull implants to be reported, they are the first that could be conceivably used in humans, which is a crucial distinction. This is due to the inherent toughness of YSZ, which makes it far more resistant to shock and impact than the glass-based implants previously demonstrated by others. This not only enhances safety, but it may also reduce patient self-consciousness, since the reduced vulnerability of the implant could minimize the need for conspicuous protective headgear.

This research was supported, in part, by the UC Riverside Chancellor’s Strategic Research Initiative.

This unique treatment is not only a major win for UC Riverside and the Riverside community but will be revolutionary in the care of patients undergoing treatment for neurological disorders. The innovative implant is a true reflection UC Riverside’s commitment to serving as a Catalyst for Innovation

Read the full article as published September 3, 2013 by UCR Today, here.

Inaugural Class at UCR School of Medicine Prepares for Success

(Includes excerpts from the article published August 12, 2013 and written by Kris Lovekin for UCR Today)

UCR's first class of medical school students celebrate at the White Coat ceremony. (Photo Credit: UCR Today)

UCR’s first class of medical school students celebrate at the White Coat ceremony. (Photo Credit: UCR Today)

On August 9, 2013, the UCR Student Recreation Center was filled with excitement, nervousness, smiles and cameras.  An admiring crowd of 700 people cheered on the inaugural class of 50 students in UC Riverside’s School of Medicine as each medical student slipped into the doctor’s white coat, held by a faculty member, to mark the beginning of four more years of hard work.  This White Coat Ceremony was not just an ordinary celebration; it served as a prominent mark in the history of Riverside, and California.  These students are members of the first medical school to be developed in California in more than 40 years.

 “I’ve been telling the students this is a once in a lifetime event, like the sighting of Haley’s comet”, said Kendrick A. Davis, director of medical education for the UCR School of Medicine. “It is rare that you are in the right spot and you can take advantage of it. It is beyond a milestone.”

Things like this don’t just happen magically.  The effort to establish the school took a concerted community effort over many years, capped off recently with a state budget deal that included $15 million in annual funding, thanks to the successful advocacy of the Inland Empire Caucus, the Monday Morning Group and Inland Action.  Funding for the medical school will now be part of UC’s base budget annually going forward.

“We are at the end of a long relay,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the founding dean of the School of Medicine. “Each time we had a roadblock, our community doubled down on their effort. I want to thank everyone for that effort.  Ultimately, our strongest supporters have always been our community, individually and collectively,” he said.

Olds also acknowledged the efforts and dedication of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, the California Medical Association, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the Desert Healthcare District, the Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Citizens University Committee, the Vines Society, and the medical associations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The amount of support seated in the Recreation Center that Friday night was definitely felt.  Jaire Saunders, a member of the Class of 2017, was surrounded by his parents and a brother who were beaming with pride as they talked about this new accomplishment in his life.  Janel Gracia, another member of the first class, said she was inspired.  She said receiving her own coat “makes it feel 100 percent real.” She did her undergraduate work at UC Riverside and currently serves as a mentor in the outreach programs that build a pipeline of culturally diverse college students qualified to go to medical school.

It is this inaugural class of medical students that will propel Riverside forward as a leader in 21st Century Healthcare.  The medical school was made possible only by the hard work and unified dedication of many in the community who believed in the mission and the potential impact the school would have on Riverside and the greater Inland area. The UC Riverside School of Medicine will continue to advance the economic competitiveness of the region,  fostering the creation of a highly skilled workforce to meet the growing demand for primary care physicians and healthcare support services in Inland Southern California. 

Read the full article as published August 9, 2013 by UCR Today, here.

Eastside HEAL Zone Initiative Launches With Neighborhood Health Fair

(Includes excerpts from the July 27, 2013 Press Enterprise article written by Alicia Robinson)

A booth sponsored by Community Action Partnership displays a chart that illustrates healthy food choices during the Eastside HEAL Zone at Patterson Park in Riverside. (Photo credit: David Bauman/PE Staff Photographer)

A booth sponsored by Community Action Partnership displays a chart that illustrates healthy food choices during the Eastside HEAL Zone at Patterson Park in Riverside. (Photo credit: David Bauman/PE Staff Photographer)

Saturday, July 27, 2013 was the kickoff of the Eastside HEAL Zone initiative, a three-year cooperative effort of local agencies to reduce obesity by helping Eastside residents eat healthier foods and exercise more. HEAL stands for Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Riverside is one of 17 California communities participating in the program funded by a $1 million grant from Kaiser Permanente.

The Eastside was chosen for the initiative because of its high rate of obesity as well as its limited access to affordable healthy food.

“The whole idea is to really focus on a specific community and help that community learn to eat better, incorporate more activity” into daily life, said Vita Willett, executive director of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals/Health Plan. “We really want to change behaviors.”

The HEAL Zone initiative was planned by the Riverside Community Health Foundation and Community Action Partnership of Riverside County along with Riverside city and county, Riverside Unified schools and the Riverside County Child Care Consortium. About 30 organizations are involved in the effort, including local churches and health care providers.

On Saturday, booths set up at Patterson Park offered information on healthy cooking, proper portion sizes, parks and recreation activities and more. Erika Juarez, 35, got her blood pressure and glucose measured by workers from Borrego Community Health Foundation’s Eastside center.

“I haven’t gone to the doctor lately and I need to get an overall physical exam. That’s why I stopped by,” Juarez said in Spanish, through an interpreter.

Part of the HEAL zone’s goal is to give residents tools and information to take charge of their health. A booth staffed by local churches encouraged people to start walking clubs, and at another booth they could pick up a healthy shopping grocery checklist or a cookbook.

Borrego Health’s Ilsa Aguirre, who grew up on the Eastside, said the initiative is about getting people in the habit of thinking about their health in their daily life.

“Sometimes we don’t always make the connection that eating bad foods or junk food does impact your health,” she said. “You don’t have to be in the gym. You can do fun things, like Zumba.

The Eastside HEAL Zone initiative embodies the spirit of Seizing Our Destiny through the shared commitment of Riversiders joining together as a Unified City to promote a fit, fresh and fun lifestyle for all. Seizing Our Destiny Champion and Vice President of Riverside Community Health Foundation (RCHF), Ninfa Delgado, bolsters this commitment by successfully mobilizing the efforts that created the HEAL Zone, which has the potential to have a profound impact in Riverside’s movement to create a more prosperous future.

The Eastside HEAL Zone Initiative is a place-based intervention that targets both places and people utilizing environmental strategies supported by policy and reinforced by aligned/coordinated education and promotion. At the end of this initiative, changes are expected to occur in the following areas: environments, policies, and community resident awareness, knowledge, skills, motivation, and utilization. Over time, the cumulative result of these efforts will be population-level behavioral changes around nutrition and physical activity in the community of Eastside. For more information, click here.

Read the full article as published on July 27, 2013 in the Press Enterprise, here.

Collaborative and Perseverant Leadership Key to Success in Securing State Funding for UC Riverside School of Medicine

On June 27, 2013 a budget compromise was worked out and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that ensured UC Riverside’s School of Medicine will receive full and continuous funding of $15 million per year — long-sought assistance that enables the school to flourish and greatly facilitates its ongoing accreditation.

“The creation and development of the medical school has been the vision of many at UC Riverside and in our community for many years,” said UC Riverside Interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley in a press release issued by the university announcing the funding had been secured.  “Today we reached a milestone for the health of our region and the future of UCR.”

Throughout the past several years, the unified and active leadership of a large number organizations and individuals in the Riverside region have kept the project moving forward against incredible odds.  (Read more on past efforts…)

The UC Riverside School of Medicine Research Building.
(Photo by Peter Phun)

In the latest press release, Conoley said the leadership of Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) and Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) was critical to funding the UC Riverside School of Medicine.  Both campaigned on getting on-going funding for the medical school, and after election both immediately introduced legislation to that effect.

Roth called the $15 million of ongoing state money in this year’s state budget a victory for the medical school, the health of the people of Inland Southern California, as well as the regional economy. “This victory will benefit all of us today and our families for generations to come,” he said.

Medina said the Legislature took a major step forward to meet the area’s need for doctors and healthcare providers.  “The UC Riverside Medical School will also advance the economic competitiveness of the region, bringing much needed jobs within the health related fields,” he said.

“Without their leadership, without their efforts elevating this as a budget priority, it would not have been successful,” said Patrick Lenz, the UC’s vice president for budget, and one of the chief architects of the agreement.

To read the full press release issued by UCR, click here.

Community Quality of Life Survey Results Show Riverside Has Tremendous Pride; Positive Opinions about Opportunities for Education, Entertainment and Being Active

On Thursday, June 27, 2013, a full report by the research institution that conducted the Riverside Community Survey was presented to the Seizing Our Destiny Champions Council and other Riverside leaders. The purpose of the Survey was to gather, analyze and share actionable data about the opinions of Riversiders regarding their quality of life, and to spark community-wide engagement for improvements.

SOD Survey LogoThe Survey was conducted in conjunction with the Institute of Applied Research and Policy Analysis (IAR) at California State University, San Bernardino and was designed to be a research study measuring a sample of Riversiders that matched Census 2010 demographics, but that also allowed for widespread community input and engagement.

To achieve this, three survey methods were used in order to elicit information from a sample large enough to be analyzed by age, gender, home zip code and race/ethnicity: Phone, Online and Paper.  However, of the three, only the phone survey can be considered statistically valid because it is a random sampling of City of Riverside residents; those that had either a landline or cell phone had an equal chance of being contacted.  The Online and Paper versions were conducted to broaden participation and feedback and all three methods were available in English or Spanish.

Inarguably, the most critical feedback was extremely promising and optimistic: across racial/ethnic, age and income groups, residents have a tremendous feeling of pride in Riverside. In fact, 90.2% of all phone interview respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they are “proud to live in Riverside”, and 84.9%feel a sense of belonging to their community.”

“These results confirm what a lot of Riversiders know in their hearts – they love their city and they feel good about living here,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said. “The survey also provides valuable insight into where we can do better in changing conditions, perceptions or both.”

What other feedback does the survey provide to current and future leaders and influencers?

On the positive side, Riversiders think the city is a good place to raise a family and are happy with the schools and educational opportunities (with positive ratings for the full educational pipeline); they see their community as a good place for affordable living or to locate a business, to be active and healthy, and, by a sizeable majority, Riversiders see their community as a good place to enjoy and participate in arts and culture opportunities.

While it is important to celebrate the positive, some of the key feedback identified areas that could still use some attention or have Riversiders concerned.  Good or bad, in many instances, it seems to be a matter of communication.

For example, although a strong majority felt Riverside “is a good place to own or operate a business or nonprofit organization,” the perception of Riverside being business-friendly and the awareness of business/entrepreneur resources is not as strong as desired.  It is an area that City, Chamber and organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) have made a priority over the past several years, but these results indicate that more creative methods of sharing information need to be explored.

Other areas that have made progress in some aspects, yet still have room for improvement include Riverside’s level of volunteerism and giving, neighborhood connectedness, and perceptions of air and water quality.

Of most concern to Riversiders is the progress made in addressing homelessness, lack of good jobs and the perception of safety in some geographic areas.

In response to these findings, Damien O’Farrell, one of the five Co-Chairs for Seizing Our Destiny, said “While we know we have made strides in some of the areas that are concerning residents and businesses, where the results of the survey are showing that we are falling short there’s still work to do together as a community of engaged Riversiders taking ownership in our own success - and these results will help guide our efforts.”

More detailed information and data supporting the key findings are included in the full report that can be downloaded at www.RiversideSurvey.com.

The complete report is being made available to the public so that community, civic, elected, neighborhood and faith-based leaders and institutions can use it to help guide their decisions about programs, services and community-building initiatives. However, for those that are just interested in the highlights, the cover memo to the report provides a summary of the findings with page numbers directing you to learn more about specific aspects.