NIHCM Newsletter / May 2020
COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Populations
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations and communities -- from unemployment to capacity for remote work, and access to testing to increased risk of infection.
- An ongoing data analysis by KFF paints a sobering picture of how the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color.
- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation has donated $75,000 to the City of Memphis for COVID-19 testing, treatment and other health-related services for the uninsured.
- Jvion produced a community vulnerability map displaying the communities that will experience severe outcomes if infected with COVID. It also identifies the socioeconomic factors driving the risk.
Also of interest: NIHCM’s Links to Information on COVID-19 & Vulnerable Populations
Community Efforts to Protect Frontline Workers
To help address the serious shortage of critical personal protective equipment needed by frontline health professionals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, states and organizations are coming together to fund and support relief efforts.
- In New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is allocating $2.35 million to donate 500,000 N95 respirator masks and 81,000 face shields to the Governor’s coordinated response effort.
- Independence Blue Cross is donating approximately 500,000 N95 respirator masks, worth nearly $1.9 million, to the City of Philadelphia for distribution to emergency medical services professionals, hospitals and post-acute facilities within the city.
- In Minnesota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and North Memorial Health have joined forces to create a new solution to protect masks – creating thousands of mask covers made of surgical wrap material that can be worn over N95 masks.
In addition to protecting frontline workers from the virus, there is a growing discussion around ensuring that these workers also receive the necessary mental health support to cope with the trauma. The National Academy of Medicine has created a list of resources to support the health and well-being of clinicians during COVID-19, and the American Medical Association has compiled strategies for frontline workers to manage their mental health.
Growing Concerns about Rural America & COVID-19
The hardest hit - and earliest reported - areas in the United States have primarily been urban, however, there is increasing concern about the impact of the pandemic in rural America. Nearly 9 in 10 rural counties now have at least one COVID-19 patient and are experiencing a rapid growth in the number of cases.
- The Alliance for Health Policy convened a panel of experts on a webinar to discuss the unique challenges that face rural health systems and the strategies they are employing during the emergency response.
- The Rural Health Information Hub has compiled articles to help readers understand the ongoing situation in rural areas and linked to resources to help communities address challenges.
- NIHCM Foundation produced an infographic depicting how increasing urbanization leaves behind an older, sicker and poorer population in rural America, with corresponding health care challenges, and summarizes promising tools to improve rural health.
The Increasing Role of Virtual Technology During the Pandemic
With the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is maintaining access to care, reducing capacity burdens on hospital facilities, and preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 during in-person visits. However, millions of Americans, including many in rural America, lack the technology and internet bandwidth to access these services. Sectors and organizations around the country are trying to find ways to expand access and leverage technology during this time.
- To address some of the access barriers to telemedicine, 36 independently-operated BCBS companies announced that they would expand coverage for telehealth services through June. A recent poll in Massachusetts found that residents are increasingly using telehealth services with a more than 200% rise in the use of telemedicine over several weeks.
- Identifying new avenues to reach children without direct access to school-based services, school districts are increasingly turning to virtual counseling and wellness apps to meet students’ mental health needs during the pandemic.
- Esri has used GIS mapping to better understand the spread and impact of COVID-19, including an application summarizing broadband availability, adoption and school age population statistics.
View NIHCM's new infographic on the rapid increase in drug deaths involving stimulants and register now for NIHCM's webinar on substance use disorder and COVID-19.