Puerto Rico faces a public health crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The Guardian reports on the island’s health infrastructure, which was already struggling before the hurricane hit. Over 1.5 million Puertro Ricans lack access to safe drinking water. Vox reports on the many health risks associated with power outages, including storage of food and medications, sanitation and sewage, drinking water, temperature control, and the risks associated with relying on generators, including carbon monoxide poisoning. NPR interviewed residents about how they’re coping with these challenges, including managing chronic conditions. “Even before Maria, Puerto Rico's health care system was in trouble. Doctors and health care providers here have long asked Congress to boost Medicare and Medicaid payments to match those in the mainland. But with no power, little running water and a health care system stretched increasingly thin, [hospital vice president Domingo Cruz Vivaldi] says Puerto Rico now faces a humanitarian crisis.”
Republican leadership scrapped a planned vote on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill this week, following weeks of pushback from constituents, including protests inside the US Capitol on Monday by hundreds Medicaid and disability-rights activists. The third GOP senator to oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill was Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who announced her plan to vote no on Monday evening immediately after the Congressional Budget Office released a partial score of the bill, anticipating that millions of people would lose insurance coverage and that federal spending on Medicaid would fall by approximately $1 trillion by 2026. Co-author Lindsey Graham vowed to reintroduce Graham-Cassidy in the future.
Funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program – which covers 9 million children -- will expire on September 30, if Congress doesn’t act immediately. Several states (Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina, as well as DC) would run out of funding to administer the program by December.
Physical injuries and psychological traumas experienced in the course of military service put veterans at greater risk for opioid misuse, writes Dana Matthews, a veteran’s health care advocate, in TC Palm. “Because they suffer from chronic pain, in combination with a high level of psychological distress from combat trauma that often goes undiagnosed and untreated, veterans are at risk for addiction and associated difficulties when prescribed opioids.”
The newly-created Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in British Columbia, Canada represents an opportunity to develop community strategies to address upstream contributors to mental health problems, Trevor Hancock of the University of Victoria writes in the Times Colonist. Managing the problems of people with mental health or addiction conditions is not enough, he says; “the new ministry needs to focus on why people develop mental-health problems in the first place, how we can prevent that happening, and how we can improve the overall mental health of the population.” This includes looking beyond the health system to foster strong relationships in families, schools, and communities.
At a rally for Luther Strange last weekend in Alabama, President Trump went after black football players, including former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, who have been peacefully protesting police brutality and systemic violence against black Americans by taking a knee during the national anthem, and blasted the National Football League for taking minor and inadequate steps to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries, saying “they are ruining the game.” Trump’s remarks seemed clearly intended to stoke the racial prejudices of his predominately white audience, and he urged owners to fire protesting players and called on “patriotic” Americans to boycott the NFL due to player protests. The New Yorker observed that, “in these performances, Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself.” Kaepernick’s former teammate, Eric Reid, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on why he joined Kaepernick’s act of protest: “I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless…. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy. It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.” Writing for Colorlines, Byron Hurt describes his own reasons for boycotting the game, after many years of playing and watching football: “McKee’s findings [on traumatic brain injuries] deeply concern me. It’s not just that I am at risk of developing C.T.E., it’s the fact that the guys who compete on game days have become disembodied figures to me rather than human beings whose long-term health should be prioritized. By playing fantasy football and watching NFL games, I am helping feed an industry that makes billions of dollars off of the labor of objectified, mostly Black bodies. African-American males make up 6 percent of the U.S. population but comprise nearly 70 percent of the players in the league. How can I, as a Black man, watch a sport where the young Black men who play it will disproportionately develop problems with impulse control, aggression, violence, depression, paranoia and dementia?... I’m not cheering for an NFL plagued by violence against women, growing evidence of C.T.E., and racist owners.”
Affluent white people tend to think gaps in economic opportunity and status among racial groups are smaller than they actually are, according to a recent study. The study by researchers at Yale University gauged participants’ perceptions of differences in wages, benefits, and accumulated wealth, according to an article in Colorlines. The study’s authors said their research suggests the misperceptions may be related to a lack of awareness about policies and practices in housing, labor, and other areas that contribute to inequities, and a great overestimation of how much progress we’ve made to address inequities.