NIHCM Newsletter / August 2021
COVID Surge, Mental Health, & STIs
The Delta variant is driving COVID-19 cases across the country, prompting another vaccination push. While the United States has reached the goal of 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, the country continues to grapple with the pandemic. The recent surge and new research on the contagious variant have led to the reintroduction of masking and spurred the introduction of vaccine requirements.
- Unvaccinated: States with low vaccination rates are leading the surge and seeing upticks in hospitalizations and cases. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report shows that unvaccinated people are not changing their behavior because of the Delta variant and believe that the vaccine poses a larger risk to their health than COVID-19.
- Mask and Vaccine Mandates: The highly transmissible Delta variant, even among vaccinated people, has spurred renewed policies to mask indoors. Additionally, companies, government officials, and universities are requiring vaccination for workers and students. In an effort to increase vaccinations, New York City will be the first U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining.
- Children: The next stage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will include children under 12. While not yet eligible for the vaccine, vaccine trials are being conducted for children five to 11. There is also concern about children’s safety as they head back to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask.
- The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Projection HUB, a consortium of researchers working with the CDC to track the pandemic, predicts a mid-October peak.
- This map shows where coronavirus transmission is high and masking indoors is recommended for fully vaccinated people.
- The Public Health Communications Collaborative answers tough questions relate to COVID-19 and provides message guidance and framing for public health officials.
Mental Health and Well-being
Mental health awareness has increased during the pandemic and took center stage at the Olympics, as top athletes discussed the importance of protecting both the mind and the body.
- Social Isolation: New research found that social isolation in the U.S. rose even as the communities began reopening as the COVID-19 crisis subsided.
- Children’s Mental Health: New reporting from Kaiser Health News looks at how the pandemic could have lifelong impact on children’s health and education. Listen to NIHCM’s recent webinar to learn more about children’s mental health.
- Mental Health Response Teams: Early data from a pilot in New York City shows that mental health response teams produce better outcomes than police when dispatched for certain nonviolent emergency calls.
Health Plan Initiatives:
- Anthem’s State of the Nation’s Mental Health report shows that Hispanic/Latino communities were more engaged than other racial/ethnic groups in telehealth visits for mental health services during COVID-19.
- The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas announced $5.29 million in grants for behavioral health programs in Arkansas.
- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ has given a $3 million grant to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Capital Campaign to support programming that leverages the arts to encourage mental and physical wellbeing.
Addressing Social Determinants of Health
The pandemic’s economic and social impacts are ongoing, with many Americans still struggling to meet basic needs. In addition to paying attention to the role that social determinants play in health outcomes, there is also a need to understand the impact of political determinants of health - or how policies and politics influence the social conditions that generate health outcomes.
Food Insecurity Initiatives and Resources:
- The USDA is offering free meals to children (18 years and under) through June 2022, regardless of household income and even during summer while school is out. This School Meals Promotion Toolkit provides communication resources about the changes.
- This interactive highlights food insecurity challenges in Chicago. Learn more about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is addressing food insecurity in Chicago and across Illinois.
- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced $295,000 in support to Ohio Food relief organizations.
Housing Initiatives & Resources:
- Urban Institute released two reports: the first featuring how two communities adapted their homelessness services when COVID-19 hit and the lessons learned; and the second on the homelessness-jail cycle and results from Denver’s five-year supportive housing program.
- Anthem is investing nearly $90 Million in affordable housing in Indiana as part of its commitment to improving lives and communities.
- The CDC issued a new eviction moratorium order in areas of substantial and high COVID-19 transmission. Learn more about the new order.
Community Initiatives & Resources:
- GuideWell announced a $100K statewide challenge to accelerate the development of novel approaches to addressing economic disparities in underserved communities in Florida.
- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York has invested more than $600,000 in local non-profits this year to support and enhance community health and well-being.
- A new Trust For America’s Health report highlights the role of social determinants in health and outlines strategies to improve health outcomes, control spending, and advance health equity.
Find more NIHCM resources on social determinants of health.
As people emerge from social restrictions and resume dating, public health experts warn of the impending rise in sexually transmitted infections.
Post-Pandemic Rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have continued to rise as cases reach a record high for the 6th consecutive year prompting a public health warning of the impending increase in sexually transmitted infections.
- Rising Rates: The CDC announced that STI cases were at a record high, noting chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, as the most commonly transmitted infections in 2019.
- The Pandemic’s Effect: Screenings for STIs were severely impacted as sexual health clinics were forced to limit operations due to the pandemic. As people emerge from social restrictions and resume dating, public health experts warn of the impending rise in sexually transmitted infections.
- Antibiotic Resistance: Certain infections such as gonorrhea have developed antibiotic resistance causing further complications towards the treatment of STIs. See NIHCM resources on Stopping the Superbug Threat: A Growing Imperative.
Resources and Initiatives:
- The CDC has recently updated guidelines for sexually transmitted infections.
- The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) provides resources and support to organizations and the public, helping inform, educate, and advocate for sexual health
- The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee has increased funding for Title X grants which provide screenings and preventive services to help protect, promote, and maintain the health and wellbeing of clients.
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