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Bakersfield and several other San Joaquin Valley cities rank among the worst in the nation for air quality, increasing the potential for health risks associated with breathing poor air, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association in California.

A San Joaquin Valley-based health foundation is investing $3 million in 70 regional nonprofits with the ambitious goal of improving health outcomes through policy work, but there are varying levels of detail as to how the money will be used.

The Center at Sierra Health Foundation announced an ambitious initiative Thursday, donating $3 million to 69 nonprofit groups — 11 of which are Kern County-based — to create policy change aimed at creating better health outcomes for those struggling in the San Joaquin Valley.

The opioid addiction crisis has led to a crackdown on prescriptions of drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl and hydrocodone, particularly for chronic pain patients, who are increasingly given less addictive painkillers along with referrals for acupuncture, physical therapy, massage and even yoga.

Responding to a dearth of homegrown public health specialists and an expanding lack of community literacy in health issues, Bakersfield College launched a Public Health Sciences transfer degree this year with plans to add a certificate program within months.

Bloody lesions and sores pocked the leg of a man slung up in a hospital bed. Next to him, a woman struck with diarrhea and extreme fatigue became so tired that she passed out and fell, gashing her head. Across from her, a woman bit by a goat was covered with vomit and blood.

A Kern County resident died of the flu this week, a first for the season, and three others are hospitalized in Intensive Care Units as a severe strain of the flu sweeps throughout the state, county public health officials announced Tuesday.

Teen pregnancy rates in Kern County have dropped by more than 60 percent over two decades but still trend roughly twice the state average, according to data released Tuesday by the Kern County Department of Public Health.

For more than 20 years, the Kern High School District maintained a robust sexual education program that was praised locally, regarded as a national model and pointed to by public health officials as the reason HIV and AIDS rates were plummeting among teens.

Estimates of the number of valley fever cases recorded by local, state and federal agencies vary so widely that they call into question the accuracy of the figures released to the public, a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative investigation has found.

Against the backdrop of an epidemic in Kern County, The Valley Fever for Americas Foundation is hosting a fundraiser Wednesday to drum up funding for a cure to the debilitating respiratory disease endemic to the region.

When a punishing drought besieged California in the late 1980s, relief came with 30 days of rain in 1991 — dubbed the March Miracle because of how it revived the state’s agricultural economy.

On the eve of what could be the worst year for valley fever cases since the so-called Great Epidemic of the early 1990s, national health care leaders announced Thursday the start of a clinical trial to gain more insight into the effectiveness of early treatment.