The Conversation reported on the “hidden” health inequities that Native Americans face surrounding healthcare access, chronic disease, exposure to violence and trauma, and more. “American Indians continue to have lower life expectancies than other Americans and lose more years of productive life. They also have the nation’s highest rates of death due to suicide. High rates of premature death due to type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and accidents plague Native Americans… Early exposure to traumatic events and losses, including sexual and domestic violence, are common for many American Indians. This childhood trauma can translate to a lower quality of life and a wide variety of poor health outcomes… These disparities are shaped by social inequality, historical trauma and discrimination. Most American Indians live in chronic poverty, with limited access to health care, adequate housing, quality education and adequate law enforcement services."
Berkeley Media Studies Group analyzed the ways “big data” has transformed food and beverage marketing and undercut public health interventions: “Every time we use one of these devices, marketers are gathering increasingly sophisticated data about us. They can glean details about our lives ranging in specificity from what we eat for breakfast, to our household income and where we live. With this information, digital advertisers can target individuals in real time with marketing tailored to their behaviors and preferences. While this can sometimes seem like a harmless feature of modern life — for instance, the shoes that you previously considered buying online suddenly appear in a Facebook ad — this unprecedented ability for marketers to gather data about the most personal aspects of our lives also raises significant concerns. Aside from the undeniable questions around privacy, there is concern in the public health community about how the food industry is using this data to target people with advertising for unhealthy products.”
Schoolchildren across the US are exposed to toxins during the school day, with black, Hispanic, and low-income students facing the highest risks. The Guardian reports that “cash-strapped authorities have routinely placed schools on the cheapest available land, which is often beside busy roads, factories or on previously contaminated sites… The study found that pre-kindergarten children are attending higher risk schools than older students – a stark finding given the vulnerability of developing brains. Pollution exposure is also drawn along racial lines. While black children make up 16% of all US public school students, more than a quarter of them attend the schools worst affected by air pollution. By contrast, white children comprise 52% of the public school system but only 28% of those attend the highest risk schools. This disparity remains even when the urban-rural divide is accounted for… Schools with large numbers of students of colour are routinely located near major roads and other sources of pollution, with many also grappling with other hazards such as lead-laced drinking water and toxins buried beneath school buildings.”
Yale students are packing the halls for a class on happiness, the New York Times reports. Nearly 1,200 undergrads enrolled for Psychology and the Good Life. Professor Laurie Santos attributes the popularity of the class in part to the stress that students experience getting to Yale. Once they arrive, anxieties apparently persist—a 2013 report showed more than half of all undergraduate students sought mental health counseling at some point in their time at the university, according to the Times. Professor Santos sees her class as an opportunity to change that: “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”
Drugs are only part of the story of those who die from overdoses, Dr. Lipi Roy, the medical director of an addiction treatment center in New York City, writes in STAT. Dr. Roy reflects on the death of Tom Petty, which was recently classified as a drug overdose, and of countless others who have lived less glamorous lives but faced similar issues, including pain, depression, and past traumas. She writes: “The solution isn’t simple. We must first recognize that drugs don’t really cause addiction; they are simply a tool to temporarily relieve symptoms. We must identify and address the underlying pain and suffering. We must show a lot more compassion and a lot less judgment toward people with addiction. We need more social services for abused children and battered women; job programs for homeless veterans; access to evidence-based treatments like medications and long-term therapy; mindfulness therapies like meditation and yoga; harm-reduction strategies.”
A Boston Globe series on race examined a report on wealth in several major cities that found that for the Boston area, the median net worth for non-immigrant African American households was $8, and for Dominican households was $0. The median net worth for the White households in the region: $247,500.
The Boston Globe looks at the challenges new mothers face in overcoming addiction. Mothers with substance misuse issues, who may receive focused care during their pregnancies, often are left with little or no support after giving birth. In addition to the typical postpartum and adjustment issues, new mothers who have struggled with substance misuse may also experience a variety of other problems, from anxiety about retaining custody of their children to a lack of stable housing.
Kaiser Health News tells the story of Andrey Ostrovsky, who recently left his post as Medicaid’s chief medical officer to help address stigmas around mental health and substance misuse. He was inspired to take action after learning his uncle’s death in 2015 was caused by a drug overdose that followed the loss of his job and family connections.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that while infant mortality has been on the decline overall, states that did not adopt the Medicaid expansion have seen infant mortality rise.
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt suspended the Waters of the United States rule that was passed by the Obama administration to protect headwaters, streams, and wetlands.
Brenda Fitzgerald resigned this week after Politico reported that she purchased shares in tobacco and pharmaceutical companies while serving as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also had ongoing financial conflicts that prevented her from speaking on behalf of the agency. Principal deputy director Anne Schuchat will serve as acting director until Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar selects a replacement for Fitzgerald. Azar was sworn in as secretary on Monday. Azar is expected to travel to Indiana today to approve the state’s request to add work requirements to its Medicaid program.
The continuing resolution expires next Thursday, February 8th, with no long-term deal to fund the government in sight.
Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway announced that they will be launching a new healthcare initiative. So far, the contours of the initiative aren’t clear. Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere speculated, in an interview with Vox, that “my guess is they are going to become a self-insured plan for their employees, but instead of contract out all the benefit management services, they will use it as an incubator to test new models for payment and care delivery.”