NIHCM Newsletter / December 2022
Long COVID & Disability
The November 2022 Household Pulse Survey: National Center for Health Statistics, Long COVID, Household Pulse Survey, November 29, 2022.
- Brookings Report - New data shows long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work, Katie Bach, Brookings, August 24, 2022.
Long COVID & Disability
Long COVID has affected as many as 23 million Americans since the beginning of the pandemic. Experts have referred to long COVID as ‘the next public health disaster’ and estimate the financial toll may have a $3.7 trillion impact on the US economy. Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared long COVID could be classified as a disability under federal law. However, there are gaps between protections and accommodations in the workplace and barriers to disability benefits for people with long COVID. Despite longstanding federal civil rights laws, disabled people experience disparities in health and health care. Learn more about news on long COVID and disability:
- Long COVID: As many as 4 million people are out of work due to long COVID in the US. Many have been denied disability coverage because they don’t have documentation from specialist physicians. Long-haulers’ disabilities range from fatigue to body-wracking tremors. Some are turning to costly, unproven treatments for relief.
- Disability and Doctors: A recent Health Affairs article found that physicians’ bias and reluctance to care for people with disabilities help perpetuate health care disparities. Many doctors reported feeling incapable of properly caring for people with disabilities and discussed difficulties accommodating wheelchairs and communication difficulties.
- Access to Care: A new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that adults with vision impairment were less likely to access health care. In other news, experts say many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have a long-term care plan so they can continue living independently in their communities.
Resources & Initiatives:
- A new report by the HHS highlights patients’ experience of long COVID to drive responses from government leaders, clinicians, and patient advocates.
- See NIHCM’s webinar and infographic on disability and health.
- Health Affairs’ Disability and Health October issue.
COVID-19 and climate change have continually impacted children’s learning, development, and mental health. A recent study found that the brains of US teens aged at an accelerated rate during the pandemic. Climate-related displacement, an issue expected to worsen, can lead to increased mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, in children as well as the disruption of education.
- Learning During a Pandemic: The average student lost more than half a school year in math and nearly a quarter in reading due to the pandemic’s education disruptions. An Ireland-based study found that babies born early in the pandemic were likely to have slower development of social and communication skills but were more likely to be able to crawl, compared to pre-pandemic peers.
- Mental Health: Emergency room visits for suicidal thoughts among 5 to 19 year olds increased 59% between 2016 and 2021. Anxiety has also been growing steadily among this age group. For some, exposure therapy has proven to be effective in treating anxiety.
- Environmental Health: Climate change and air pollution pose serious risks for children, even prior to birth. A study found that pre- and postnatal air pollution exposure is linked to a lower IQ, developmental disorders, and cognitive problems.
Resources & Initiatives:
- Elevance Health is bringing a whole-health approach to the youth mental health crisis, taking into account physical, behavioral, and social factors.
- NIHCM’s recent webinar explored ways to prevent adverse childhood experiences, including trauma-sensitive schools and community programs.
- Bullying and cyberbullying can impact mental health. Learn ways to identify and prevent bullying with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
- Learn more about seasonal depression and ways to combat it with the National Institute of Mental Health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminded individuals to be aware of mental health and suicide and shared ways to seek help.
- Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) donated school supplies (New Mexico) and supported efforts to build literacy (Texas) in school age children.
- Learn more about how climate changes health with these NIHCM resources.
Viruses: COVID, Flu, RSV, & Measles
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases are at a “critical point” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, raising concerns over a possible “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses: RSV, seasonal influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Additionally, there are concerns about measles outbreaks, as more than a dozen children in Ohio get sick.
- COVID-19: For the first time, a majority of US COVID-19 deaths are among individuals that received at least one vaccine series. This is not due to ineffective vaccines; individuals who received a booster shot against COVID-19 are 15 times less likely to have a COVID-19 related death. Instead, researchers believe this shift occurred due to the growing vaccinated population, waning immunity, and low booster uptake.
- Flu: At least 7,300 flu deaths have been reported this season with flu-related hospitalizations increasing by nearly 30% in the span of a week. Nationwide, high levels of illness are being reported and are expected to continue rising.
- RSV: By the end of November 2018, there had been nearly 135 hospitalizations of infants with RSV; by the same time this year, there have been over 1,143. The recent surge in RSV hospitalizations among children has outpaced cases of COVID-19 and flu. There is currently no vaccine to prevent RSV infection.
- Measles: The World Health Organization and the CDC estimate that nearly 40 million children globally missed a measles vaccine last year, calling it an “imminent threat in every region of the world.” To prevent a measles epidemic, at least 95% of a population must be immunized.
Resources & Initiatives:
- Learn more about COVID-19, flu, RSV in children and older adults, and measles with these CDC resources.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana recently urged individuals to get their flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster shot to lower the risk of respiratory illnesses ahead of the holiday season.
In Other Public Health News...
Drug Overdoses: According to recent CDC data, drug overdose deaths for adults aged 65 and over more than tripled between 2000 and 2020. US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) testing found that 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contain a potentially lethal dose. NIHCM’s interactive graphics illustrate the influence of fentanyl in the stimulant overdose crisis and how the opioid overdose death crisis has grown and changed.
- Resources & Initiatives: The HHS announced that the Overdose Prevention Strategy has increased access to treatment for addiction, saved lives, and expanding access to naloxone. NIHCM grantee, Tradeoffs released a podcast on how local officials are grappling with spending $50 billion in opioid settlements. The DEA shared a resource on what every parent and caregiver should know about fake pills.
Health Care Burnout: The past three years have increased symptoms of exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD, with more than 500,000 health care workers quitting their jobs monthly in the US. Physicians’ stressors include those on the individual, institutional, professional, and societal levels.
- Resources & Initiatives: The National Governors Association launched a project to share information and assist states in supporting the next generation of the health care workforce. See NIHCM’s resources and NIHCM grantees’ work on physician burnout.
Cancer Screening: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths and only 16% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage. New research found that lung cancer screening can catch tumors when they are curable. A number of care providers advocate for screening for pregnancy complications that signal increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Resources & Initiatives: The American Cancer Society shares screening guidelines by age. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana highlights the importance of breast cancer screening and early treatment for Black women and other minorities, who are at higher risk of death and late-stage diagnoses.
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