NIHCM Newsletter / June 2022
Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis
Released: June 9, 2022
Gun Violence: Public Health Crisis
Recent mass shootings continue to devastate communities nationwide and call attention to public health needs surrounding gun violence. The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as an event in which four or more people are shot or killed. Firearms have overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. Additionally, mass shootings can lead to major depression, PTSD, and other mental distress among survivors and impact those who are following the news.
- Mental Health Impacts: School shootings profoundly change hundreds of thousands of children’s lives, including those with no physical injuries. These events also traumatize teachers, who feel forced to protect their students from the recurring threat of gun violence.
- Stigma: Mental health experts say it is inaccurate to blame “mental health issues” as primarily responsible for gun violence in the U.S. More than 1 in 5 people in the U.S. experience mental illness and it is rare for a mass shooter to have a diagnosed mental health condition.
- Doctors: Physicians are speaking out against gun violence in the wake of the recent mass shootings and calling it an epidemic. An ER doctor discusses gun violence as a public health issue and how doctors can address the problem.
- Everyday Gun Violence: Mass shootings comprise only 2 percent of the public health problem. Gun violence is a routine and a long-term issue across the country. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted and gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males under 55.
Resources & Initiatives:
- See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) resources on firearm violence prevention.
- Read expert tips on how to talk to kids about gun violence and what to say to ease their stress.
- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York announced a $300,000 investment to support all those impacted by the tragic shooting in Buffalo.
- NIHCM grantee, The Journalist's Resource, shares a tip sheet on what journalists should know when covering gun issues.
- Learn more about the public health approach to gun violence prevention from the American Public Health Association and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
Food Insecurity & Infant Formula Shortage
The highest inflation in four decades has impacted food access and food banks are struggling to meet the increasing demand. One in six adults relies on charitable food, a rate much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Simultaneously, families are struggling amidst the current baby formula shortage and parents of premature babies can’t find the specialized formula they need.
- Food Insecurity: Low-income households spend a far greater share of their income on necessities and feel the rising prices the most. Black and Hispanic adults are nearly three times as likely as White adults to use food pantries.
- Infant Formula Shortage: Despite the reopening of the Abbott plant, it is estimated the baby formula shortage will continue until mid-July. The Biden Administration announced actions to get more infant formula into the U.S. and onto store shelves.
Resources & Initiatives:
- Learn what you can do if you’re having difficulty finding baby formula.
- Florida Blue made a $3.8 million investment to advance food security across the state for children, families, and seniors.
- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield partnered with Heart of America and iHeartMedia to provide resources to local schools across the country to improve food security.
As of June 6th, the CDC identified 25 cases of monkeypox across 12 states. The United Kingdom currently has the largest outbreak outside of Africa, with 302 confirmed cases (as of June 6, 2022). The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement that the virus poses a moderate risk to global public health as cases globally have surpassed 1,000.
- What is Monkeypox? Monkeypox is caused by the zoonotic monkeypox virus that can spread from animals to humans as well as between people. Symptoms including, fever, headaches, muscle aches, and skin rashes, typically last between two and four weeks and resolve without treatment.
- Where Did Monkeypox Come From? It is not yet known which animal is responsible; however, African rodents and non-human primates are suspected to play a role in the transmission from animal to human. The virus is commonly found in Central and West Africa.
- How Does Monkeypox Spread Among Humans? Monkeypox can spread through direct contact with infectious materials, respiratory secretions, intimate sexual contact, and from mother to fetus. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease; anyone in close contact with an infected individual is considered to be at high-risk.
The U.S. is entering the third summer of the pandemic, the sixth wave of COVID, and many people are getting sick for the first time. Cases are six times higher than last summer, fortunately, hospitalizations remain in check. In addition, people are likely to get COVID multiple times. See the latest developments on the pandemic:
- New Vaccine: The Food and Drug Administration met Tuesday and endorsed the Novavax shot. This vaccine was developed using decades-old technology and is an important option for those who are unable to take an mRNA vaccine.
- Children’s Vaccinations: Kids are at risk of severe COVID outcomes and almost 90% of children hospitalized during the omicron wave were unvaccinated. Fortunately, the White House says COVID vaccination for kids under five could start in a few weeks.
- Long COVID: A CDC study suggests that more than one in five adult COVID survivors in the U.S. may develop long COVID. Many want to know whether they have long COVID and there are more than 200 symptoms of the condition.
Excessive pollutants and other environmental hazards place millions of Americans at risk of poor health. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently established an Office for Environmental Justice that will focus on environmental inequities in health, protecting the health of disadvantaged communities, and training to build an environmental justice workforce.
- Environmental Injustice: A study found that nearly 45 million Americans are breathing dirtier air as a result of redlining. An online tool developed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health highlights the current environmental hazards disproportionately impacting some communities.
- Extreme Heat: Early season heat waves have set new records nationwide, prompting many cities to take action to implement heat protection regulations. As “heat domes” continue to expand, tens of millions of Americans will be exposed to higher than normal temperatures, raising the risk of heat-related illness. In Chicago, three women recently died from extreme heat.
- Wildfire Risk: The Southwest U.S. is facing an “extremely critical” wildfire threat as a result of heat waves, extreme drought conditions, and high winds. Just this year alone, California has endured 2,279 fires, burning nearly 10,861 acres throughout the state.
Resources and Initiatives:
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico donated $100,000 to support wildfire relief efforts across the state, including emergency shelters, food and water distribution, and other critical services.
- Utilizing peer-reviewed research, Risk Factor has created a modeling system to track past events, current risk levels, and future projections of geographical areas.
- Florida Blue, the Florida Blue Foundation, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts recently participated in NIHCM’s “Climate Changes Health” webinar series.
- In April, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield provided assistance to those impacted by a tornado with winds reaching up to 145 miles per hour.
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