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Courtenay Edelhart covers health care for The Californian. Reach her at, at or on Twitter@TBCHealth.

BE PATRIOTIC! DRINK WATER: For other moms, there is some validation in waving a newspaper at stubborn kids and saying, “See? It’s in the paper!”

Doesn’t work as well when you’re a journalist who covers health care. Said children roll their eyes and respond, “Duh. You put it there.”

OK, fine. But this time I truly am vindicated. No less than the armed forces of the USA have joined me in lamenting all the sugary drinks youngsters consume at school.

Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit  organization of more than 400 retired military leaders, is fed up because being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason young adults cannot enlist. Last week, the group issued the report, “Operation Hydration: How Providing Water in California Schools Can Help Children Become Healthier Adults.”

The report found that 48 percent of Kern County children aged 2 to 17 drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day, and 44 percent of local ninth-graders are estimated to be overweight or obese. That’s compared with 40 percent of ninth-graders statewide.

Uncle Sam wants you ... to put down that sugary drink and gulp some good, old-fashioned water.

Yet too many students don’t have access to it due to the cost of upgrading plumbing infrastructure.

The good news is that The California Endowment, a private health foundation, recently announced funding for schools to modernize campus drinking-water facilities.

So step awaaaay from the vending machine. Drinking fountain’s over there.

DOLORES STEPS UP: Covered California announced last week that Dolores Huerta, a civil rights leader and co-founder of the United Farm Workers, will be a spokeswoman for a new campaign encouraging Californians to get health care coverage before open enrollment ends on March 31.

Covered California is working hard to recruit Latinos, whose enrollment levels have lagged those of the state’s general population.

It’s a problem nationally, as well, but federal efforts to address it have stumbled. The federal government’s Spanish-language website,, was delayed due to technical problems.

Huerta, a close ally of Cesar Chavez, is featured in English and Spanish radio spots and YouTube videos calling on Latinos to sign up for insurance. In the segments, Huerta reminds her audience that access to health care is a cornerstone of the decades-long struggle for Latino-American equality.

COLORECTAL CANCER ALERT: Some American Cancer Society big shots are in town as Bakersfield prepares to host one of the largest Relay for Life events in the nation, and they’re using the occasion to remind people that March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Otis Brawley, the society’s chief medical and scientific officer, said there’s still some aversion to getting screenings, even though everyone middle-aged and older should get checked out regularly.

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age, and more than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 or older.

That’s why everyone aged 50 and up who has no family history of colorectal cancer should get one of three simple screenings every five years, or a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Screenings should occur more frequently for people with a personal or family history of the disease.

TAKE CARE OF THOSE KIDNEYS: Speaking of awareness, March also is National Kidney Month. Nineteen people die every day in the United States waiting for a kidney transplant. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk for kidney disease by controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, according to the National Kidney Disease Education Program, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If you’re already on dialysis, you can find kidney-friendly recipes in both English and Spanish at

HIV-POSITIVE NEWBORNS: Doctors at an AIDS conference in Boston last week revealed that a baby born HIV-positive was in remission from the virus that causes AIDS after receiving AIDS medications just hours after birth.

The infant was born in the Los Angeles area in April of last year shortly after researchers announced a similar case of apparent remission in a baby born in Mississippi. The first baby is now 31⁄2 years old and has no obvious signs of the virus despite not having had treatment in a couple of years.

The suburban Los Angeles baby is still receiving anti-viral medications.

Researchers are hesitant to use the word “cured” just yet, but the two cases are sure to influence the debate about how soon and how aggressively to treat newborns with HIV.

WHAT YOU’RE SAYING: Earlier this week, we asked this at

Californian: “Some people are encountering major phone wait times if they try to contact an insurance company offering coverage under the Affordable Care Act. What’s been your experience?”

Here is some of the conversation:

Sandy Nozick: “I’ve logged 8.5 hours on the phone, most of it ‘on hold’ between Kaiser Permanente and the marketplace. I understand the marketplace being overwhelmed, but Kaiser has been in business since 1945 and knew for 2+ years the ACA was coming. Maybe they should have hired more phone answerers. Gods knows, they’re raking in $ like never before.”