NIHCM Newsletter / February 2024

Cancer Rates Rise Among Under 50

Cancer Trends

A new report from the American Cancer Society found that cancer mortality rates continued to decline through 2021. Improved cancer treatment, detection, and declines in smoking have contributed to reduced overall rates. However, a recent trend has emerged showing an increase in overall cancer incidence among people under 50. The rise is especially surprising in adults in their 20s and 30s in regards to colon cancer. Learn more about disparities in cancer rates as well as information on cervical and colorectal cancer.

  • Racial Disparities: A recent study found Black individuals experience higher mortality than their White counterparts for common and preventable cancers. Disparities are contributed to by factors such as access, medical mistrust, and socioeconomic conditions. One in six Black men will develop prostate cancer and they are twice as likely to die from the disease than White men.
  • Cervical Cancer: Recent research findings indicate that vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) for girls aged 12 or 13 prevented cervical cancer, however, uptake in the US is just over 60%. Another study found that women in low-income counties are experiencing increases in cervical cancer rates, suggesting disruptions in screening and treatment.
  • Colorectal Cancer: More young people are getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer and their diagnoses are at later stages when the cancer is more aggressive. Doctors hypothesize that the increase in rates among young people may be due to lifestyle and environmental factors.

Resources & Initiatives:

Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders

A new JAMA Pediatrics article highlights how teen substance use is linked to mental health distress, finding that adolescents who use cannabis, alcohol, and nicotine are more likely to exhibit psychiatric symptoms. The findings suggest asking adolescents about substance use may be a useful screening tool for mental health issues. Learn more about mental health, substance use, and suicide below.

  • Youth Mental Health: Another JAMA study found that teens who were socially withdrawn and experiencing increasing somatic symptoms were more likely to have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. New York City designated social media as a public health hazard due to its impact on youth mental health.
  • Suicide: A KFF Health News article examines the high suicide rates in Native American communities and the need for comprehensive suicide prevention programs. Suicide rates are rising among Hispanic people, particularly among children. A new study found that exposure to gun violence significantly increased suicidal ideation and behaviors among Black adults.
  • LGBTQ+: A research brief by the Trevor Project explores how the majority of young LGBTQ+ people believe they had a low life expectancy. It also examines the connection with mental health and how low life purpose is associated with suicide attempts.
  • Alcohol: Treatment for alcohol use disorder remains infrequent despite alcohol overuse causing 140,000 American deaths annually. The stigmatization of alcohol addiction prevents people from seeking treatment.

Resources & Initiatives

Help is available:

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: This lifeline is available 24/7 to offer immediate support and assistance to those in crisis.
SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for confidential support, information, and treatment referral.

Health Care Updates

The health care landscape is constantly evolving and this month’s newsletter examines trends across coverage, pricing, and challenges in the workforce.

  • Drug Pricing: A significant portion of annual drug price increases take place in January each year, with 46brooklyn's interactive analysis tool identifying around 900 price increases so far this year. Vizient predicts drug price inflation to grow by 3.8%, fueled by specialty pharmaceuticals such as weight loss drugs. Patents are expected to expire for blockbuster drugs, which opens the door for competitors.
  • Coverage: The New York Times explores the record 21 million people who signed up for marketplace plans in 2024, due to the pandemic relief package which is expected to expire next year. KFF examines the millions that have lost coverage in Medicaid redetermination.
  • Health Care Workers: A recent JAMA article finds that health care workers continued to leave the industry after the pandemic, demonstrating the need to prevent losses of experienced staff by addressing burnout and improving hiring pipelines. There is also a staffing shortage in pharmacies as applications to pharmacy schools have been dropping.
  • No Surprises Act: A recent survey by AHIP and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association reveals the positive impact of the No Surprises Act, which protects patients from more than a million unexpected medical bills each month.

Resources & Initiatives

Food Insecurity

Access to adequate, nutritious food is a well known determinant of an individual’s health. A new study found that individuals who experience food insecurity are at greater risk of dying prematurely and having a shorter life expectancy. At age 50, someone with full food security would be expected to live an additional 32.5 years, dropping to an additional 30 years for someone with low food security, and only 28 additional years for someone with very low food security.

  • Food Security Rates: Food insecurity decreased for low-income US adults in 2021, but returned to pre-pandemic rates by 2022, according to a recent study. Food security improved most among SNAP beneficiaries, who experienced high pre-pandemic rates of food insecurity, highlighting the benefit of federal nutritional benefits.
  • School Meals, Discipline & Stigma: Researchers from the University of North Carolina and the U.S. Census Bureau found that providing free school meals to all students, regardless of their families’ income, led to lower discipline rates. The researchers believe a primary driver of the change was the elimination of the stigma associated with qualifying for free and reduced-priced meals.

Resources & Initiatives

  • HHS hosted its first-ever Food is Medicine summit in Washington, D.C, bringing together stakeholders at the intersection between food and health, and announcing three new public-private partnerships with Instacart, Rockefeller Foundation, and Feeding America.
  • Wellmark Advantage Health Plan partnered with two state-based organizations to provide over 2,400 meals for older adults and veterans in Iowa and South Dakota.
  • Read Feeding America’s Map The Meal Gap 2023 report to learn more about the extent and variation in local food insecurity levels in the US.
  • To learn more, view NIHCM’s recent resources on food insecurity and other social determinants of health.

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