Victor E. Bulldog III’s campus tour comes to CHHS!

VEBIII2a_smFresno State’s big dog on campus, Victor E. Bulldog III, will be making a few stops at some of our CHHS departments during his “Have Wagon, Will Travel Campus Tour” put on by the Alumni Association. Stop by and get your paw-tograph with VEBIII, and some photos too! CHHS dates include:

July 30:

Department of Kinesiology, 8:30-9:00 a.m. // South Gym, Room 112

CHHS Student Services Center, 12:30-1:30 p.m. // McLane Hall, Room 194

August 7:

Professional Human Services, Family Food and Science, Social Sciences Courtyard, 8:00-9:00 a.m.

For additional dates, contact the Alumni Association at 278.2586.

Health Policy Institute’s findings show black infant deaths far exceed other ethnic groups in Fresno County

This article is reprinted from Valley Public Radioa leading provider of news, music and entertainment content for California’s San Joaquin Valley. Originally published on July 15, 2015.


BlackInfantMortality2African-American infants in Fresno County are three times more likely to die within their first year than white infants, largely because of premature birth, low birth weight or birth defects.

The alarming rates of African-American infants dying in their first year in the county are prompting public health officials to dig deeper.

“Over the last few years ever since 2008 Fresno has experienced a dramatic growth in infant mortality rates particularly for African-American women,” says Dr. John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute (CVHPI).

In an effort to understand the uptick, the CVHPI conducted a six-month research effort trying to determine what factors contribute to infant mortality and pre-term births.

Photo Credit: Central Valley Health policy Institute
Photo Credit: Central Valley Health policy Institute

While there are more Hispanic infants dying in Fresno County, the rate of African-American infant deaths per 1,000 live births is the troubling figure. According to the latest numbers from 2013, African-American babies died at a rate of 25.3 per 1,000 live births. At the same time, Hispanic infants died at a rate of 9.0 ,white infants died at a rate of 8.1, and Asian infants at 7.8.

In 2013, the African-American infant mortality rate increased to 10.6 per 1,000 live births in California.

In the last few months,  the CVHPI interviewed local African-American women, providers and social workers. The Institute is presenting their preliminary findings today to the First 5 Fresno County Commission, which supported the research through a grant.

“Young African-American women often find themselves without living situations that support being calm in their pregnancies, they face challenges in their neighborhood, they face challenges about jobs,  economic security and they find that when they do get pregnant that the care system is hard for them to navigate,” Capitman says.

The following are some of the key preliminary findings:

  • Mothers experienced high level of social isolation and stress resulting in hypertension, hospitalization, pre-term birth and loss of a child.
  • Mothers lack social support, felt as if community was a source of judgment.
  • When seeking health care, expectant mothers often experienced a lack of accessible and culturally appropriate health care services.
  • Women lacked access to preventive care and health information.
  • Providers indicate lack of transportation and coordination of care as main barrier to women’s health.
  • Income, access to care and health care coverage are predictive of infant mortality.
  • Women enrolled in Medi-Cal benefits are at nearly 50% higher risk for pre-term births than those privately insured.

The CVHPI, along with First 5 Fresno County, will hold a community meeting on this issue August 11, 6 p.m. at Gaston Middle School in Fresno. The goal is to inform decision makers and the community about this issue in hopes of forming a call to action for this controversial topic affecting so many in the community.

Click to hear Lauren Lessard on Valley Public Radio.
Lauren Lessard

Lauren Lessard, research scientist at the CVHPI, recently spoke with Valley Public Radio about this study Click here to hear the segment in its entirety. Skip to 5:45 to hear Lauren’s segment and hear about some of the findings they’ve uncovered and what they, in partnership with First 5, plan to do to with their research.


Read even more about the CVHPI’s findings and research in an in-depth article published in the July 14th issue of The Fresno Bee.

Jenna Sawdon-Bea’s cancer journey helps her discover the art of life

Just a couple of months ago, Dr. Jenna Sawdon-Bea stood in front of an auditorium full of Physical Therapy graduates, students, colleagues and friends. Her emotions were high as she gave an inspirational keynote address at the inaugural 2015 Doctor of Physical Therapy commencement. In her own words, she reflected back on fall semester of 2012. It was a time that marked the very first class of students entering Fresno State’s new Doctor of Physical Therapy program, and it was also around the time Sawdon-Bea received life-changing news. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sawdon-Bea with DPT students, Spring 2013

By the time the spring 2013 semester rolled around, Sawdon-Bea was already two rounds into her chemotherapy regime. Although the treatments left her physically weak at times, being in the classroom teaching and doing what she loves always offered her moments of strength.

“Continuing to teach during treatment was likely one of the best things I did,” says Sawdon-Bea, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. “Interacting with my students and peers allowed me time to focus on something besides cancer!”

Sawdon-Bea and Art of Life Volunteer Executive Director, Jenelle Higton/ Photo Credit: Art of Life

Today, she is healthy and thriving and has turned her cancer experience into one of hope as the president of the Art of Life Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Fresno. Sawdon-Bea credits this Foundation as a fundamental catalyst to her own healing process while going through cancer treatments. In 2013, she participated in the Art of Life Canvas Program, along with her three young daughters, who were 4, 7 and 8 at the time.

“Verbal communication about cancer with kids can sometimes be tricky, especially when they are watching their mom lose her hair, take multiple naps on the sofa, and recover from surgeries,” says Sawdon-Bea. “So being able to watch my girls creatively express what cancer meant to them on a canvas, was amazingly healing.”

The vision of Art of Life is that everyone touched by cancer will discover the “art of life” through creative expression. To make this happen, the Foundation provides healing arts programs that pair cancer survivors with local artists in order to co-create unique pieces of art about life, hope and survivorship.

“Our Foundation focuses on celebrating life, living life and moving forward,” says Sawdon-Bea, who became president in January 2014. “We fully recognize that cancer affects more than just the individual going through treatment – their family members are affected, colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc.”

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Sawdon-Bea and her three daughters creating through art.

In recent months, it was announced that the City of Fresno would donate three acres of land at Fresno’s Woodward Park to break ground on The Healing Garden – a project spearheaded by the Art of Life Foundation. The Garden will provide an opportunity for cancer survivors and families affected by cancer to partner with local landscapers and artists to reflect their own cancer experience on a 3-acre “canvas”.

The Foundation hopes this creates a space of sanctuary, celebration and healing for the Fresno community. The Garden, free to the public, is expected to open in September.

In the meantime, Sawdon-Bea continues to serve as a beacon of light to those around her, including here on the Fresno State campus.

“Jenna is one of the most inspirational people I know,” says Dr. Peggy Trueblood, chair in the Department of Physical Therapy. “It was as if she became empowered to prove that she could not only survive, but inspire the world by doing so! Her resilience, strength, dedication to her family, and upbeat attitude throughout everything has been simply amazing. She is a role model for all. Jenna celebrates life every day and we celebrate with her!”

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The Sawdon-Bea family in 2013. Click below to view more photos.


To learn more about how you can be a part of the Healing Garden and the Art of Life Foundation, please click here. Sawdon-Bea recently appeared on ABC30 Action News to talk about The Healing Garden. View that segment at

July 24 Alumni Mixer to honor Corinne Florez

Join the Department of Social Work Education as they host the Title IV-E Child Welfare Program Alumni & Community Partners Mixer on Friday, July 24th! Longtime Title IV-E Program Coordinator, Corinne Florez, will be honored for her 23+ years of dedicated service to the Fresno State community.

Corinne Florez
Corinne Florez, MSW

Florez began her career at Fresno State in 1992, serving multiple roles in the Title IV-E Program. She is currently the master of social work coordinator for the program, which prepares students for careers in the area of child welfare, mental health and aging.

Florez is also a proud alumna of Fresno State, having received her bachelor’s degree in child development in 1975 and a master’s in social work in 1978.

We invite you to celebrate Florez and have the opportunity to network with other alumni in the Valley at this special event!

For more information on the mixer or to RSVP today, please contact Rebecca White at or Kristin Carraway at or call 559.278.3076.

Fresno Bee Op-Ed: Central Valley Health Policy Institute provides tools for longer, healthier lives

Dean Jody Hironaka-Juteau was featured in The Fresno Bee discussing how the Central Valley Health Policy Institute provides Fresno State students, alumni, faculty and also community members the unique opportunity to shape public policy and health right here in the Valley. In a region that is home to some of the worst health in the nation, having ‪#‎LiveWell‬ leaders and researchers locally is the key to healthier and longer lives for Valley residents.


Jody Hironaka-Juteau, Ed.D.

Today’s students are deeply committed to making a difference in our community.

For Fresno State health and human services students, this goal includes helping Valley residents have a fair opportunity for long, meaningful lives. The Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State helps students and community members develop tools to shape our region’s health policies and practices.

The Bee recently published a series of reports detailing public-health problems impacting children and families in our region. These reports underscore the importance of timely, appropriate care in promoting health and well-being, but they also highlight causes that range from individual behaviors to the social environment. Through research, analysis and education, the institute helps Valley residents and leaders understand these health challenges and actions required to improve outcomes.

Research by the institute has shown that Valley residents have worse health than people in other parts of California and the nation. These differences occur across the life span: from high rates of adverse birth outcomes and childhood disease, to high risk for occupational and other injuries, to shortened lives for elders. These findings, chronicled in the institute’s 2012 “Place Matters for Health” report, reflect large differences between neighborhoods and communities in exposure to health risks and access to prevention resources.

There is growing consensus that, if we want to sustain a thriving economy and offer bright prospects for young families, then public policies and individual practices must exist in order to manage environmental risks and make healthy choices easy in the places where we live, work, learn and play. The institute was created for this very reason — to help Valley residents achieve a fair and healthy region.

The health policy institute recently celebrated 13 years of serving the Valley. It offers a unique opportunity for Fresno State students, new graduates and community partners to participate in research and policy analysis. Additionally, through the institute’s health policy leadership program, over 220 community health professionals and advocates have worked with Fresno State faculty and students over the last 10 years to develop skills to spearhead policy and practice solutions to the Valley’s unique public health challenges. This is executed through community-engaged applied research and policy analysis. By giving emerging leaders hands-on experiences in shaping policy and practice, we are building the capacity of the Valley to offer all residents an opportunity for fair and equal health.

In May, the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State graduated 150 students in the public health field. Eleven received master’s degrees. These graduates are going into community health, environmental/occupational health and health administration. Many graduates participated in internships, trainings and institute reports offered by the institute.

Faculty members also collaborate with the institute to develop their research and service portfolios. This is further indication that having a local health policy and research center provides students and faculty a direct link to shaping cutting-edge public health debates.

The institute gives students and new, eager graduates the vital opportunity to engage in real-world research on topics impacting not just our region, but our nation. These topics include teen pregnancy, poverty, health disparities and health inequality among underserved populations. Having our student interns and graduates give a voice to these disadvantaged communities is one of the great benefits of the institute and one of the best ways to utilize the talent, drive and determination of our students and alumni.

Created in 2002, the institute came at a critical time. Community efforts were surfacing across the Valley, led by community organizers and advocates from disadvantaged and low-income communities. They desired change for their conditions, and they couldn’t do it alone.

The institute was a much-needed contribution to the Valley. As a research and policy institute, it shines a spotlight on our local challenges and contributes to the growing nationwide commitment to the elimination of health inequities, while providing essential learning tools for our next generation of graduates and public-health leaders.

Originally published July 16, 2015 in The Fresno Bee.

Miguel Perez recognized as Honory Professor for global health course in Dominican Republic

Dr. Miguel Perez accepting honor at the UCE graduation ceremony June 27, 2015.

Dr. Miguel Perez, professor of health promotion in the Department of Public Health at Fresno State, was recognized as an honorary professor at Universidad Central del Este (Central University of the East, UCE) in the Dominican Republic as part of UCE’s Global Health Week.

From June 20-30, Perez led a service-learning course that took 15 Fresno State students to medical facilities and Haitian immigrant camps, where some of the most destitute individuals reside. With financial support from the Friends for Civic Engagement project at Fresno State, students in Perez’s course were able to deliver food to 30 families and provide a series of health education activities.

Perez (l) receiving his honor from UCE officials.

The title of honorary professor is given in recognition of academic creativity and productivity based on teaching, research and spirit of service that has contributed to improving quality of life.

“I am humbled by this undeserved honor which recognizes joint efforts to improve the health status of marginalized individuals in the Dominican Republic,” Perez said. “The celebration of Global Health Week allows for academic and cultural exchanges between public health students at Fresno State and medical and public health students from the UCE.

This is the first year we brought Fresno State students to the Dominican Republic, and we hope to soon welcome a number of UCE students to Fresno State.”

This latest visit marks the third time that Perez has taught at the UCE. In addition to teaching courses in health promotion, Perez has also worked with researchers to investigate the risk behaviors among first-year students. Their work was featured in the Global Journal of Health Education and Promotion.

Perez also conducted research on migrant health issues and adolescent health risk behaviors in Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico as well as developing health promotion programs in Thailand and South Africa. Perez, who has authored numerous publications in health promotion, joined the faculty of Fresno State in 1999.

Fresno State Public Health students gearing up for their service learning project in the Dominican Republic.
Fresno State Public Health students gearing up for their service learning project in the Dominican Republic.

We’ll bring you much more from this trip in the coming weeks, including much more photos and experiences, as told by the students themselves! In the meantime, check out this video compiled by students, displaying the fantastic work they did over the course of the trip. #FresnoStateServes

Central Valley Health Policy Institute to examine Valley’s oral health inequities

When a national oral health advocacy organization, the DentaQuest Foundation, asked Fresno State University’s Central Valley Health Policy Institute (CVHPI) to examine the state of oral health in the region and take a grassroots approach to prioritizing needs, it made perfect sense. It was essentially a continuation and expansion of the institute’s ongoing efforts.

“We were interested immediately,” said CVHPI Executive Director John Capitman. “We knew from our prior work that this was an important challenge and that we could reach back to some of our prior colleagues and collaborators to work on this.”

Photo Credit:

In 2012, CVHPI published a study in collaboration with an ongoing national initiative by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies called Place Matters. The goal was to identify and reduce health disparities caused by social, political and environmental conditions. CVHPI found some startling discrepancies in life expectancy rates in the San Joaquin Valley based on where a person lived — gaps as wide as 21 years depending on the ZIP code. Another startling finding: The rate of premature death in the lowest-income ZIP codes of the Valley is nearly twice that of those in the highest-income areas.

Now the institute will look at oral health disparities. “Our approach here is to both understand how individuals throughout our region think about, feel about, and experience oral health services and also to begin to build a network of activists interested in oral health,” said Capitman.

The effort is part of DentaQuest Foundation’s new Grassroots Engagement Initiative to improve the infrastructure of oral health systems at the community level. The foundation is partnering with 20 grantees from six different states, including six organizations in California; the others are in the Bay Area and Southern California.

Grantees like CVHPI are often the social justice experts who know or can find out what oral health looks like in their communities and can network and develop strategies to engage key players, said Andrew Bishop, a grants and programs associate for DentaQuest Foundation.

The project relies on “true authentic engagement. It’s completely community driven. It comes from the ground up,” said Bishop. “It gets to the hallmark of what DentaQuest prides itself on. It’s an iterative process.”

Photo Credit:

The initiative kicked off in March of this year and is part of the foundation’s Oral Health 2020 campaign, which emphasizes oral health in public education, improved dental care for children, and expansion of dental benefits under Medicare and Medicaid. Grantees will receive $100,000 in the first year.

“We have been working to develop a group of stakeholders across the country into a network around improving oral health,” said Michael Monopoli, director of policy and programs at DentaQuest Foundation. “CVHPI was chosen not only because it has a strong relationship with community organizations, but also because it has a presence in Sacramento.”

“A lot of the issues and specific solutions are system of care solutions,” said Capitman. “Engagement of the public is really important but also engagement of folks involved in the caregiving system. How do we build an oral health movement?”

Although the project is just getting underway, Capitman said there are already a couple of important issues that stand out. For one, there are no comprehensive data on the services available in the Valley and the challenges that service providers face.

“Right now we haven’t had, for any valley county, an oral health access and quality assessment,” said Capitman. “It’s a part of health care that nobody has really looked at in our region in a systematic way in recent years.”

But there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests there’s a shortage of services, said Capitman. And preliminary data suggest an excessive and significant rate of emergency department visits and hospitalizations due to poor oral health. “And that reflects poor access to care,” he said.

Photo Credit:

CVHPI published an oral health survey of federally qualified health centers that offer dental care in a 12-county area in Central California in 2009. The six-year-old survey found that dentists were concentrated in urban cores, such as northwest Fresno, far away from low-income communities. The earlier Place Matters study found much higher life expectancy rates in northwest Fresno than in poorer parts of the city. Capitman said a high proportion of dentists in the survey didn’t serve Denti-Cal patients and said they were not equipped to serve Spanish speakers. “I don’t have [a] strong reason to think that it’s all that much different now,” he said.

There’s a reason many dentists don’t accept Denti-Cal.

Reimbursement rates are so low that dentists aren’t even able to cover their costs, said Marlene Bengiamin, research director at CVHPI. The valley is also considered a medically underserved area. “There are lots of places where there’s not much access to professionals,” she said.

Oral health has been on the sidelines for a long time, said Bengiamin, just like mental health. There needs to be more education early on about preventive care, she said. Studies show that unhealthy teeth affect the whole body and oral diseases are often linked to chronic disease.

At this early stage, CVHPI has formed a steering committee that represents various groups and interests. These include community-based organizations like Centro La Familia and federally qualified health centers like Clinica Sierra Vista. Eventually a larger stakeholder group will help establish priorities for improved oral health care. The institute will also have focus groups and other kinds of data collection.

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and Vision y Compromiso are two of the other grantees in California. Capitman said the groups will work together to come up with a strong statewide initiative. “We think California can make progress,” he said.


This article is reprinted from California Healthline, a free, daily online news service funded by nonpartisan California HealthCare Foundation and distributed by Associated Press. Originally published on June 25, 2015.

Our College empowers students to take a whole body approach to improving the quality of life. Our faculty and students are dedicated to helping Central California live well. Click through the slideshow to the right to learn about each of our seven departments within our college: Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies, Kinesiology, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Recreation Administration, School of Nursing and Social Work Education and Gerontology.


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