NIHCM Newsletter / September 2020
COVID-19 Pandemic & Mental Health
Mental Health: Kids, Teachers and Parents
The extent to which the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic is affecting children’s mental health and emotional well-being is dependent on factors such as pre-existing mental-health problems, personal loss and stress in their family. Young people need mental health support in the pandemic:
- NIHCM’s recent webinar brought together experts to provide information and guidance on early childhood development, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the pandemics impact on children.
- Tools available to parents to support their children:
- Teletherapy and peer support networks can help young people access mental health services during the pandemic.
- A program supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will introduce a mental health and well-being component to help children better manage emotions.
Stress is contagious, and addressing children’s needs during this uncertain time also means supporting adults. This school year brings a unique set of challenges for teachers, and their mental health needs should be considered in the reopening of schools.
- The stress teachers are experiencing during COVID-19 could affect student outcomes and lead to teacher burnout.
- 77% of teachers are worried about their own health when returning to work.
- In a Louisiana study, almost 40% of early education teachers reported clinically relevant signs of depression.
- In addition to their own trauma around the pandemic, teachers are taking on additional stress as they support their students.
- How to support teachers:
- Teachers need to feel safe and have the necessary tools for addressing the emotional well-being of their students.
- In addition to helping teachers get supplies, you can emotionally support teachers by asking them what they need.
- Provide virtual support groups facilitated by mental health counselors and encourage teachers to take mental health days.
Parents reported feeling anxious, abandoned and overwhelmed facing this school year, as just one in seven parents say their children will be returning to school full time this fall. However, parents need to look after their own mental health while safeguarding their children’s.
- Maternal depression and anxiety has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors that exacerbate mental health problems include marital quality and financial strain.
- Three-fourths of parents will be overseeing their children’s education. Mothers are particularly vulnerable to increased stress and decreased mental health as they try to balance family life with work.
Support for parents:
- There are steps parents can take for their mental health, but there also needs to be a greater investment in supporting them.
- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nevada has expanded a new program to help members address trauma, suicide risk and complex mental health conditions.
- The D.C. Department of Behavioral Health is connecting parents to mental health professionals and support groups.
Economic Challenges & Public Health
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying economic downturn, has placed a spotlight on the housing affordability crisis in the United States and renewed conversations about the impact of housing instability on health and health equity.
- On September 1st, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order to halt evictions nationwide through December for individuals who have lost work during the pandemic and lack alternative housing options.
- An analysis from The Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimated that 30-40 million people in the US could be at risk of eviction in the next several months without intervention.
- NIHCM produced an infographic on the pandemic’s impact on existing homelessness challenges and convened a panel of experts in a webinar discussion on homelessness and health.
The rise in unemployment has also left individuals and families facing new challenges for accessing and affording food.
- A new report from The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice illustrates the evolving impact that the pandemic has on food and housing insecurity among college students.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Pillsbury United Communities and North Memorial Health launched a "food as medicine" pilot program that provides personalized weekly grocery packages - delivered by community paramedics - to vulnerable community members that are high-risk for COVID-19.
- NIHCM’s infographic explores the evolving state of food insecurity in America and looks at how poverty, access to transportation, housing and social isolation can impact an individual's access to nutritious food.
- NIHCM convened a panel of experts on a webinar to discuss the issues impacting food security and how these challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Race and Health: Before and During COVID-19
The deadliness of racial inequality is illustrated in a recent analysis that found an additional 1 million white Americans would die this year if their life expectancy fell to the best-ever levels recorded for Black Americans (2014 levels). Racial health disparities before and during the pandemic stem, in large part, from long-standing systemic racism that harms the health of Black and Latino Americans.
- Latina mothers make up nearly half of the coronavirus cases among pregnant women due to their community being exposed to the virus at disproportionately higher rates.
- While most children experience no or mild symptoms, they can develop severe symptoms from COVID-19. Hispanic and Black children are more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than their white counterparts.
- Black Americans are 3 times more likely to get COVID-19 than white Americans and more likely to be hospitalized. However, after being hospitalized there was no difference in morality between Black and white COVID-19 patients.
- A FiveThirtyEight analysis looked at disparities in COVID-19 testing access and found that Black and Hispanic people are more likely to experience longer wait times and understaffed testing centers.
Solutions & resources:
- NIHCM’s recent webinar and infographic address systemic racism’s impact on the Black community and actionable solutions.
- Policies could address racial disparities by reducing exposure to COVID-19 and improving testing access.
- The Independence Blue Cross Foundation joined a partnership to increase COVID-19 testing in underserved communities with a mobile response unit.
Environmental Health & Justice
The environment impacts health, and air pollution alone is responsible for over 100,000 deaths in the US per year and 4.2 million world-wide. Researchers suggest that air pollution has significantly worsened the health outcomes from the pandemic and potentially led to more deaths.
- Investigations into the impact of redlining illustrate how residents that were effectively segregated into different neighborhoods based on race now face greater health risks than individuals living where redlining did not occur.
- NIHCM’s recent webinar brought together experts to discuss how environmental racism impacts communities and share evidence-based solutions and community initiatives that are addressing these challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
- NIHCM produced an infographic on air pollution in America and the unequal impact it has on Black and Latino communities.
The ongoing fires in California have placed a spotlight on the intersection of air quality, safety and COVID-19. Years of suppressing fires has only worsened California's wildfire risk. Now, in response to a growing threat, government officials are looking to and partnering with tribal leaders to implement traditional, Native American controlled-burning practices.
- How cities can add accessible green space in a post-coronavirus world
- Building a more sustainable urban future
COVID-19 Testing Competition
A group of health plans and organizations have come together to sponsor a competition for creating a better coronavirus testing program that will inform safe reopenings.