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NIHCM Newsletter / October 2020

COVID-19 & Vaccines

We are now more than 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic with over 1 million COVID-19 deaths world-wide, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID tracker. The United States makes up 4% of the world's population yet accounts for over 20% of confirmed coronavirus deaths.

  • Within the US, smaller cities and towns account for a growing share of these deaths. According to an NPR analysis, one fifth of the first 100,000 deaths were outside of large metro areas, compared with nearly half of deaths in the second 100,000 deaths.

Several states are behind in efforts to scale up COVID-19 testing before flu season because the US is facing a shortage of reagents (chemicals used to process tests). Shortages in personal protective equipment, like N95 masks, also still exist despite significant efforts to increase production.

  • Blue Cross NC has teamed up with North Carolina providers and experts to manufacture N95 respirators for frontline health care workers.

As COVID-19 vaccine development continues, many are concerned about safety and the best way to distribute vaccines once available.

Studies have shown that routine immunizations, particularly childhood vaccines, have declined during the pandemic. Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Foundation has addressed some of these challenges by partnering with The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to launch a new immunization information system that helps providers order vaccines, manage inventory, and ensure more children and adults receive immunizations.

Flu vaccines are effective and can protect the most at-risk members of society, while reducing flu-related hospitalizations, and possibly saving lives. This is particularly important during the pandemic. A recent poll found that one in three parents don’t plan to vaccinate their children against the flu this year, citing concerns about side effects and the belief that it is unnecessary.

Racism, COVID-19, Health & Well-being

The coronavirus pandemic has called attention to racism as a public health crisis. Leaders’ recognition of racism as a public health issue is a first step in advancing racial equity and justice, which will require resource allocation and action.

Recent data on the pandemic’s toll highlights the extent to which systemic racism continues to harm underserved communities:

Beyond COVID-19 cases and deaths, the pandemic has brought additional challenges to the health and well-being of Black and Latino Americans.

  • A Commonwealth Fund analysis shows how Black and Latino Americans are facing greater economic challenges and mental health concerns due to the pandemic than their White counterparts.
  • A new analysis predicts loss of employer-sponsored health insurance due to the pandemic will disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic people.
  • NIHCM’s most recent webinar and infographic highlighted effective strategies to address the impact that systemic racism and other factors have on the health of Latinos.
  • In August, a NIHCM webinar and infographic addressed the impact of systemic racism on the health of Black Americans.

Black women are turning to midwives and home births both to avoid COVID-19 and to ‘feel cared for.’ Black women are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than White women. The Black midwifery movement has grown in recent years with many practices doubling and tripling in size during the pandemic.

Evolving Challenges for Older Adults during the Pandemic

Given the risks that COVID-19 poses to older adults and the outbreaks in long-term care facilities, many people are choosing to live independently in the years ahead, but it can be difficult for people who are frail or have cognitive impairments to live alone.

Environment & Health

Environmental pollution is a major driver of health disparities and has significantly worsened health problems linked to COVID-19.

  • Toxic air poses additional challenges to the 78 million people confronting historic West Coast wildfires and has long-term public health implications.
  • NIHCM’s recent webinar and infographic addressed air pollution in America and the unequal impact it has on Black and Latino communities.
  • In recognition of the combination of health and financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for disaster relief, Blue Cross NC has invested $400,000 in American Red Cross Programs.
  • Asthma is linked with air pollution. Anthem, Inc. recently announced a study with Apple to help individuals with asthma manage their condition using everyday devices.

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