NIHCM Newsletter / June 2020
Racism, Inequality & Health
- As the protests continue, public officials are concerned about plans to reopen and are watching for signs that demonstrations will result in virus outbreaks.
- The COVID Racial Data Tracker shows that as of June 5, 2020, black people are dying at a rate nearly 2 times higher than their population share.
- Communities of color are facing unique mental health needs during COVID-19. Learn more about how Yolo Akili Robinson, a recipient of the RWJF Award for Health Equity, is responding to these challenges.
- New data from the US Census Bureau suggest that the pandemic, and the economic fallout, will widen existing racial and economic disparities in access to safe and affordable housing.
- Register now for NIHCM's webinar on Homelessness & Health during COVID-19
- The Trevor Project has created resources for supporting Black LGBTQ youth in crisis during the pandemic.
- While the Marshall Project has been collecting state-by-state data on COVID-19 infections from prisons, there is insufficient data on how COVID-19 affects black Americans who are disproportionately incarcerated.
COVID-19, Deaths of Despair & Mental Health
In addition to the thousands of deaths from COVID-19, the pandemic is also impacting mental health and could lead to higher rates of substance use.
- New research by Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care highlights an increase in “deaths of despair” due to the pandemic and estimates that as many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide.
- To address access challenges during the pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is launching a home-based substance abuse treatment program to allow patients to receive virtual treatment, including detoxification, assessment and intensive outpatient care.
- NIHCM convened experts on a webinar to discuss the challenges of substance use, treatment and recovery during COVID-19.
- NIHCM’s webinar on happiness provides insights on the science of well-being and how we can strengthen our own happiness during this time of physical distancing and uncertainty.
Sheltering in place and social distancing has left many older adults feeling isolated and uncertain. To help address these challenges, Independence Blue Cross implemented the “Calls of Kindness” program to connect employee volunteers with seniors to provide comfort and support to those in need.
COVID-19 Underscores the Critical Role of Social Determinants of Health
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted vulnerable communities while certain social determinants of health, including food security and housing, have been negatively impacted as well. To address these challenges, health plans are working with their communities and supporting programs to assist individuals at risk.
- Horizon BCBSNJ announced that it is expanding an existing program that connects community health workers with members with social needs.
- The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation announced $25,000 awards to 20 nonprofits across Massachusetts that predominantly serve people of color, rural communities, people experiencing homelessness and other at-risk populations.
- Anthem Blue Cross has expanded a recently launched home-delivered meal program to address increased food insecurity during the pandemic.
NIHCM produced an infographic and webinar to provide insights on longstanding issues surrounding food insecurity in the United States and how these issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism convened a webinar on child hunger and unmet needs, including insights on the growing crisis and how journalists can better report on the problem.
Continuity of Care & Challenges to Population Health
As the urgency of the pandemic has taken priority in public health, other health and medical issues are not being addressed. Nearly half of adults have skipped or postponed medical care because of COVID-19.
- Due to the fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus people have been delaying emergency care, which results in excess deaths. Between March 1 and May 9, the U.S recorded an estimated 101,600 excess deaths, including 26,000 fatalities that were not attributed to COVID-19.
- Routine cancer screenings for cervical, colon and breast cancer were down between 86% and 94% in March, and there is concern that cancer screenings will not fully rebound after states reopen.
- Children are missing routine vaccinations, with U.S. children and communities now facing increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines supporting the continued provision of health care for children during the pandemic, including routine vaccines.
- Medical practices are experimenting with ways to boost vaccination rates during the pandemic, including setting up vaccination tents and mobile vaccination units.