NIHCM Newsletter / December 2023

Mental Health During the Holidays

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Curtin SC, Garnett MF, Ahmad FB. Provisional estimates of suicide by demographic characteristics: United States, 2022. Vital Statistics Rapid Release; no 34. November 2023.

Mental Health During the Holidays

The holiday season can be stressful for many, making it an important time to focus on mental health, especially depression. Sharing valuable resources becomes even more important, as the country deals with a record high rate of suicide. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this alarming trend underscores the urgent need to address mental health concerns across demographics.

  • Suicide Among Older Men: Men aged 75 and older have the highest suicide rates, with risk factors including loneliness and isolation. A CDC report highlighted the prevalence of firearm-related suicide among men aged 55 and older.

  • Health Care Workers: Last year, 46% of health care workers felt burnt out. This is a 32% increase from 2018. Health care workers are currently grappling with an unprecedented mental health crisis that can impact patient care. The CDC has outlined a plan to address burnout and promote mental wellness among health care workers.

  • Resources: The annual survey from the American Psychological Association found that 56% of psychologists have no openings for new patients. Public schools are increasingly turning to online therapy to support students’ mental health. Additional training and resources are needed for the 988 lifeline to ensure effective outreach and assistance for everyone in need.

Resources & Initiatives

Viruses Rebound

The prevalence of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu this winter have increased the likelihood of acquiring a respiratory illness. Respiratory illnesses are returning to their normal patterns, which were halted by the pandemic's preventive measures (such as isolation and masking). In addition, after U.S. life expectancy plunged due to COVID, a new CDC report shows its slow rebound.

  • Variant: The COVID variant BA.2.86 has tripled since mid-November and can be attributed to 8.8% of cases in the United States. As the COVID variant progresses, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as a “variant of interest” in comparison to their initial classification.

  • RSV: The surge of respiratory illnesses in children has led the WHO to lean on China for support. In light of the RSV vaccine shortages, the White House is placing pressure on manufacturers to meet consumer demand.

  • Long Term Impacts: Viral infections, such as COVID and the Epstein-Barr virus, are shown to lead to the development of long term health issues within a person's immune system. To limit the effects of long COVID, a new study is encouraging immunization uptake.

Resources & Initiatives

  • Learn what parents need to know to protect their children from RSV infection.

  • The CDC has designated December 4th to December 8th as “National Influenza Vaccination Week”. UCLA Health encourages getting vaccinated during this holiday season to improve low vaccination rates.

  • Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis has set up clinics in order to expand access to care for people living in rural areas with long COVID.

  • Paxlovid rebound can occur after people are treated for Covid-19. For more information, physicians at Yale answer questions on this phenomenon.

  • If you are seeking clarity on COVID-19, the flu, and RSV, Time Magazine has developed a seasonal guide to answer common questions.

Aging and Preventative Health

Workforce shortages and high compensation costs act as barriers to affordable care for individuals looking for home care support for family members with dementia. This cost of care for aging adults varies widely between states. Aging adults in need of long term care are more susceptible to being financially ruined.

  • Senior Health: According to a Harvard study, 70% of adults that reach 65 years of age will require long-term care services. Medicare Advantage plans expand benefits to cover groceries for beneficiaries. As the aging population expands, developers are creating innovative housing options to meet the population's needs and foster community.

  • Dementia: In a study by the University of Michigan, researchers found 60% of a patient's net worth declined in eight years after being diagnosed with dementia. A mentoring program at the Penn Memory Center provides support and community for caregivers experiencing similar challenges with loved ones diagnosed with dementia.

  • Preventative Health: In a study published in Health Affairs, researchers report that the proportion of preventative primary care visits has doubled from 2001 to 2019. Medicare beneficiaries displayed a significant increase in attending primary care visits. For policymakers, prevention focused policy options are difficult to garner support for due to the lag of tangible benefits on health outcomes.

Resources & Initiatives

  • The CDC publishes resources for individuals to stay up to date with their preventative care.

  • Harvard Health created a list of common questions and answers for people looking for in-home health or health aides.

  • The National Institute on Aging granted $3.2 million to the University of Maryland to use health technology to reduce Alzheimer’s patient costs.

Health Care Trends

The health care landscape underwent significant transformations in 2023. Here are some key health care topics of interest:

Consolidation: Sudden hospital closures in rural areas of California are resulting in decreased access to medical services.

  • A Washington Post investigation and an FTC lawsuit have led U.S. Senators to believe the U.S. Anesthesiology Partners (USAP) has been using anti-competitive practices via consolidation.

  • In a new Milbank article, Lois Uttley, a NIHCM webinar speaker, discusses how a new law prioritizing health equity analyses can improve conditions in rural and low income health facilities.

Cybersecurity and Health Care: A debilitating ransomware attack has left Ardent Health Systems, which spans three states, without its computer-based tools that are required to care for patients.

AI & Health Care: Generative AI is positioned to transform the health care ecosystem by optimizing resource management, eliminating lags associated with billing, and defining quality.

  • To foster safe, ethical and effective use of AI/Machine Learning in healthcare, a Nature article suggests health care organizations (HCOs) use Quality Management System principles.

Value-Based Care: CMS is encouraging states to use Value-Based Payment State-Directed Payment Arrangements (VBP SDPs) to improve outcomes for dual eligibles in Medicaid managed care plans. Historically, states have been slow to uptake VBP SDPs.

  • Providence Health System and Premera Blue Cross partner to create new clinical data technology. This technology can be used to reduce administrative burdens for providers in value-based arrangements.

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