NIHCM Newsletter / September 2022

Overlapping Public Health Emergencies

Released: September 8, 2022

Overlapping Public Health Emergencies

Life expectancy in the US fell for the second year in a row, driven largely by COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths. This contrasts with other high-income countries where life expectancy has rebounded. As the United States continues to respond to the pandemic, the emergence of monkeypox and polio highlights how overlapping emergencies strain the public health workforce and threaten multiple vaccination campaigns.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • Learn more about the new COVID booster shots and how to get up to date from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The Caring Foundation of Texas’ Care Vans are deployed to provide free vaccinations to students in the Dallas and Houston area.
  • Learn what scientists know about how monkeypox spreads and about monkeypox and kids.
  • Learn how to slow the spread of monkeypox from this publication from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
  • The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu, noting that fall vaccine campaigns will be complicated with both the flu and fall boosters being rolled out.

Register for NIHCM’s upcoming webinar on maternal mortality to hear experts discuss the impact of changes to reproductive rights and new approaches that may improve maternal health!

Incarcerated People’s Health

It is estimated that there are currently close to 2 million people incarcerated across the country. Between 1980 and 2014, the incarceration rate in the US went up by 220%. Incarcerated individuals are disproportionately impacted by chronic health conditions, mental illness, and substance use before, during, and after incarceration. While incarcerated individuals in the US have a constitutional right to receive health care, many do not have access to appropriate care.

  • Health Care in Prisons: Roughly 63% of people with a history of mental illness do not receive adequate treatment while incarcerated. For incarcerated individuals that are pregnant, around 58,000 people a year, there are no federal standards for policies dictating abortion, maternal, and reproductive care. The overturning of Roe v. Wade may make these services even more restrictive or nonexistent.
  • Infectious Diseases: Compared to the general population, infectious diseases are more prevalent among incarcerated populations. As of August 31, 2022, there have been at least 616,478 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,901 related deaths among this population. Prison health experts are now concerned that monkeypox will spread rapidly through the prison systems just as COVID-19 has. As of August 2, 2022, there were 533 confirmed monkeypox cases in an Illinois county jail, the first prison nationally to report any cases; since then, cases have been reported in prisons in Texas, Florida, and California as well.
  • Climate Change and Living Conditions: Climate change is expected to bring increasingly hot summers, putting many incarcerated individuals at risk of heat-related illnesses. In Texas, which is one of at least 13 states without universal air conditioning in state prisons, more than two-thirds of the state’s 100 prisons do not have air conditioning, forcing prisoners and staff to live and work in triple-digit temperatures. Since 1998, at least 23 incarcerated people in Texas have died from heat-related illnesses.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • NIHCM Grantee, Vox, published an article on health care in prisons and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Highmark Foundation and several other organizations provided grants to support meeting the health needs of individuals released from incarceration and connecting individuals to social supports.
  • The Council on Criminal Justice released briefs on health care in the criminal justice system and potential new reentry policies through their Health and Reentry Project.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan grantee, MADE Institute, helps to ease the transition from incarceration to society by providing re-entry care packages. The Institute’s founder recently spoke on NIHCM’s webinar on children’s health.

Register for NIHCM’s upcoming webinar on the drug overdose crisis.

The Opioid Crisis and Other Drug Use

NIHCM’s infographic on opioid overdose deaths allows readers to visualize how the crisis has both grown in magnitude since 2000 and changed in character. Synthetic opioids, fentanyl in particular, were involved in 83% of opioid deaths in 2020. In addition to the growing overdose and addiction crisis, there is also worsening substance use among young adults.

Resources & Initiatives:

“The pandemic’s resulting isolation and online schooling exacerbated youth mental health challenges”

Mental Health in America

As millions of Americans return to the workplace after nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many report or anticipate negative mental health implications. Among children, the pandemic’s resulting isolation and online schooling exacerbated youth mental health challenges. For many American students, there is anxiety surrounding returning to the classroom on a regular basis.

  • Workplace Mental Health: Stress in the workplace can lead to decreased effectiveness and productivity. A recent survey found that nearly 71% of workers agree that employers are more concerned about employee mental health now than in the past. Many districts have turned to addressing the mental health challenges of educators as well as the children, aiming to reduce stress and burnout.
  • Return to School: Poor mental health in adolescents is associated with lower productivity, school attendance, and higher rates of dropping out of school, all of which can impact future educational and career outcomes. A recent survey reported that 74% of parents believe schools should offer mental health days. However, several barriers including lack of awareness, social stigma, and economic challenges may inhibit the use of these days.
  • Mental Illness is Not a Predictor of Violence Towards Others: While mental illness is often blamed as the cause of shooting events, it is not a useful predictor of violence towards others. Instead, recent research has shown that life crises are better predictors, suggesting that violence could potentially be averted.

Resources & Initiatives:

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