Think ahead

How to avoid illnesses, even without health insurance

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/19/2012

Pasadena is one of only three cities in California that maintains its own independent health department, which was created more than 120 years ago. 
While the scope of the services provided is very broad, the Pasadena Public Health Department also utilizes a Disease Prevention and Control Division that focuses on immunization, lead poisoning and public health clinics specializing in Tuberculosis, prenatal and HIV/AIDS testing and prevention.
According to the department’s Web site, health is broadly defined as “both the absence of disease and the presence of well-being — physical, social, economic, mental and spiritual.”
Everyone knows how important it is to stay healthy. The healthier you are, the better you feel. But how does one make sure he or she does not get a debilitating, or even worse, fatal illness? 
Some ways to avoid catastrophic illnesses are obvious. Quit cigarettes if you smoke; do not start if you are already tobacco free. That can be easier said than done, but it is definitely possible and there are plenty of options out there for those who are ready and willing to put in the effort to quit the habit. 
Drinking alcohol, taking drugs and eating disorders are also ways to develop unwanted stress, disease and illness. Like the old saying goes, everything in moderation. It’s a good rule to live by.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can easily be avoided by practicing safe sex. While condoms are hardly 100 percent guaranteed safeguard against STDs, you are, without question, much better off using them than not. When in doubt, get the morning after pill and/or get tested for HIV and other STDs as soon as possible. 
Officials at Planned Parenthood, located at 1045 N. Lake Ave., are there to help people in those often uncomfortable situations. Don’t put off something so important out of shame or embarrassment. The situation will not go away, and avoiding it will only make things worse.
Detecting and treating diseases can be very costly, but even if you don’t have health insurance, there are local options to turn to. The Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP) and the city’s public health clinics, for instance, have programs aimed at educating and preventing HIV and other STDs. Health insurance isn’t even required to get tested, which is a very important step in avoiding these types of life-changing illnesses.
CHAP, which provides low- and no-cost services to those who meet income qualifications, has three locations in Pasadena: 1855 N. Fair Oaks Ave., 1800 N. Lake Ave., and 3160 E. Del Mar Blvd. Call (626) 398-6300 to schedule an appointment. No one is turned away due to their inability to pay.
The city’s Disease Prevention and Control Division covers a myriad of activities, such as public health field nursing to investigate cases of communicable disease and to counsel and educate infected individuals; tuberculosis control; sexually transmitted disease counseling and treatment; HIV/AIDS outpatient medical services; public health laboratory testing and analysis; travel immunizations; and childhood lead poisoning prevention and treatment.
No one wants to deal with a catastrophic illness. Take care of your mind and body — you only get one. If you don’t have health insurance, there are free clinics right here in Pasadena that exist to help you live a long, prosperous life. Take advantage of their services.