NIHCM Newsletter / June 2023

Health Equity & Life Expectancy

Health Equity & Life Expectancy

A recent study found excess mortality and years of potential life lost among the US Black population, highlighting the pervasiveness and cost of health disparities in America. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased racial disparities in life expectancy. Life expectancy in the US, including for children, has declined for the second year.

  • Racism’s Impact: The Associated Press produced a five-part series on the impact of racism on Black Americans’ health across a lifetime, from increased rates of childhood asthma to Alzheimer’s. A recent KFF Health News article addresses the high rates of Black infant mortality in the South.
  • LGBTQ: In recognition of Pride month, Health Affairs highlights the importance of addressing health disparities in the LGBTQ community. These health inequities are exacerbated for the rural LGBTQ population.

Resources & Initiatives:

Mental Health: Violence & Youth

The US Surgeon General released an advisory on youth mental health and the impact of social media. Additionally, mass shootings are hurting Americans’ mental health, even for people not involved. Learn more:

  • Violence’s Impact: The New York Times collected 100 individuals’ stories about the toll of police violence on Black people’s mental health. Their survey found more than half reported ongoing sadness, anger, and fear about police violence.
  • Social Media: The Surgeon General’s report points to exposure to harmful content and excessive use of social media and its risk of harm. It also shares strategies to learn more about and address social media’s influence on mental health.
  • Youth Mental Health Concerns: There is growing evidence that marijuana is linked to increased mental health risks. And, according to recent studies, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the mental health of teenage girls.
  • LGBTQ Youth: The Trevor Project’s 2023 survey examines the mental health of LGBTQ young people in America. The survey points to the impact of anti-LGBTQ policies and legislations, which the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • NIHCM’s recently updated gun violence infographic examines the impact on public health.
  • For parents: Learn whether your child has an unhealthy relationship to social media and what you can do to address its risk to mental health.
  • Pediatricians are partnering with mental health care providers to meet children’s behavioral health care needs through partnerships at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
  • Under a NIHCM grant, The Journalist’s Resource has produced research summaries on the spike in youth suicide attempts and depression after the pandemic began and a rise in eating disorders.
  • Learn how to take the first steps in getting behavioral health care from Premera and about the importance of talking about mental health in the workplace from Wellmark.
  • See NIHCM’s resources on behavioral health, including our infographic on trauma and suicide risk among LGBTQ youth.

Cancer Care: Drug Shortages & Advances

Since 1991, cancer deaths in the US have dropped by 33%. This trend can be attributed to factors including changes in smoking practices, new treatment models, increased prevention efforts, and early diagnosis. However, in order to achieve the goal of the federal Cancer Moonshot initiative, which aims to reduce cancer deaths by 50% within the next 25 years, a faster decline in cancer death rates is necessary. Currently, record-level drug shortages across the country are disrupting treatment for thousands of patients with cancer.

  • Drug Shortages in Cancer Care: Cancer drug shortages force many doctors to delay care, reduce, or even ration dosage amounts. These shortages put accessing life-saving drugs at risk with some patients being told that there may not be enough supply for future treatments.
  • Racial Disparities in Cancer Rates: A recent study found that between 1989 and 2020, the breast cancer death rate declined by 43% - amounting to 460,000 fewer deaths. Despite having lower rates of breast cancer, Black women had a 40% higher death rate compared to White women, revealing significant disparities.
  • Breast Cancer Screening: Due to an increase in breast cancer diagnoses, particularly among younger individuals, the US Preventive Services Task Force updated breast cancer screening guidelines. They now recommend that all individuals at risk for breast cancer begin regular mammograms at age 40, rather than waiting until age 50.
  • Testing and Treating: There have been recent exciting developments in studies surrounding cancer testing and treatment. Potential breakthroughs include an mRNA vaccine to prevent melanoma recurrences, a strategy of destroying the sugars on cancer cells to promote an immune response, and a simple urine test for early cancer detection. In addition, advances in imaging, new radiation methods, and nervous system manipulation could prompt more efficient and effective treatment.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest cancer screening guidelines and find out what to do if your medications are not available.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois shared recommendations for cancer screening and advised men to be tested for prostate cancer, particularly African American men.
  • The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana urges individuals to talk to their providers about colorectal cancer screening, which is now recommended to begin at age 45.
  • Learn how a mRNA vaccine works and what it would look like for treating cancer.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico awarded a grant to the NM Chapter of the American Cancer Society to increase treatment access for cancer patients.
  • NIHCM Grantee Patricia Ansett, a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, published an article on the financial burden of breast cancer care for women on Medicare in the Detroit Free Press.

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