NIHCM Newsletter / August 2023
The Dangers of Extreme Heat
Vulnerable to Rising Heat - Benjamin Gurrentz and R. Chase Sawyer, "Almost a Quarter of U.S. Population Vulnerable to Rising Heat," July 11, 2023, United States Census Bureau.
- Cost of Extreme Heat - Woolf et al., "The Health Care Costs of Extreme Heat," June 27, 2023, The Center for American Progress.
The Dangers of Extreme Heat
This July has been the hottest in human history, and extreme heat has impacted most of the US. The groups most at risk from high temperatures include seniors, children, and people experiencing homelessness. Additionally, there are few protections for outdoor workers.
- Health Impacts: Heat is the most deadly extreme weather condition. A recent study found a rise in heart attacks on days of extreme heat and high pollution levels.
- Urban Heat Islands: A new analysis found that about 41 million urban residents experience temperature increases of 8 degrees or more.
- Policies: There is pressure on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate extreme heat events as natural disasters. The White House has announced measures to protect workers and vulnerable communities from extreme heat.
Resources & Initiatives:
- HEAT.gov shares information on current conditions, urban heat islands, and planning for heat.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on extreme heat. This CDC tracker shows where rates of heat-related illness are highest.
- NIHCM’s infographic Climate Changes Health: Extreme Heat highlights solutions to promote heat mitigation and management.
- Here are some tips on keeping kids healthy and on safety in extreme heat.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee share reminders on how to stay safe in the summer heat.
Children’s Health: Back to School
As children return to school this fall, several important health issues are on the minds of parents and educators. The mental health of young people remains a concern as 71% of parents reported their children faced challenges last school year. In addition, the majority of states experienced declines in vaccination rates among kindergarteners during the pandemic. Learn more about these concerns:
- August is National Immunization Awareness Month: About 1 in 6 toddlers started, but did not complete, the vaccine series. This decline in vaccination is attributed to factors such as persistent logistical and structural barriers as well as vaccine hesitancy.
- Addressing Mental Health: NIHCM grantee MindSite News released an article about how children are engaging in conversations about mental health. An analysis by NIHCM grantee PoP Health identifies policies to increase the delivery of school mental health services.
Resources & Initiatives:
- The Public Health Communications Collaborative provides recommendations for messaging to encourage childhood vaccinations.
- Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield launched the ‘Take Good Care Calming Room’ initiative to create calming rooms in 75 schools.
- NIHCM’s recent webinar and infographic address the state of children’s health in the US.
- BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina shares information with parents on how to keep their children safe, including recommendations on vaccines, nutrition, and screen time.
Fall Viruses and Vaccinations
The fall flu season is just around the corner and there has been an uptick in COVID cases this summer. Additionally, the respiratory syncytial virus’ threat to children and older adults’ health has gained recognition. The CDC is preparing for three viruses threatening Americans’ health this winter:
- RSV: The Food and Drug Administration approved a monoclonal antibody injection to help prevent RSV for infants and toddlers. In addition to recommending the RSV vaccine for infants, the CDC also recommends RSV vaccines for older adults.
- COVID & Flu: Like flu vaccines, COVID vaccines are likely going to become a routine part of health care. Experts recommend most people get vaccinated against the flu in September or October. COVID and flu vaccines can be administered at the same time.
Get Vaccinated: Learn about getting vaccinated against COVID, the flu, and RSV this fall.
Current Trends in Health Care…
Hospital Consolidation & Billing
Hospitals are under scrutiny for billing practices and for the impact of hospital mergers on higher health care costs that get passed down to patients. The Federal Trade Commission considers about 90% of hospital markets as highly concentrated. A new brief from the National Academy for State Health Policy provides recommendations to help states address health care consolidation.
Shortages in staffing at nursing homes and home health agencies are posing challenges to hospitals in discharging patients. Caregivers take on a lot of responsibility in the 'hospital-at-home' trend. Independence Blue Cross partnered with Carallel to provide caregivers with a support system to lean on as their loved ones are discharged from the hospital.
Tradeoffs released an episode on how Medicare is negotiating drug prices with drugmakers. Approximately one-third of Americans report that costs prevented them from filling a prescription and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona shares recommendations on how to save money on medications.
Artificial Intelligence in Health Care
AI is predicted to change health care, from generating data to saving doctors time on paperwork. The Health Care Service Corporation uses an AI tool to simplify administrative processes, which frees up clinical staff for the review of more complex requests. See NIHCM’s infographic and webinar on racial bias in health care AI.
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