NIHCM Newsletter / April 2021

The Fourth Surge, Violence & Resources

COVID-19: A Fourth Surge, Vaccine Equity, and Ongoing Prevention

While optimism grows as vaccination rates increase, rising cases and a highly transmissible variant appear to be leading to a fourth COVID-19 surge. Vaccine rollout is improving, but some states are beginning to lift restrictions and mask mandates. Health experts say it’s too soon as we are far from herd immunity. Researchers estimate 70 to 85% of people need to be immune to stop the spread of COVID-19. Experts offer new advice on COVID-19 prevention.

  • Rising Cases: The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warns that the United States (US) is heading for “impending doom” as daily COVID-19 cases rise by 13% in the past week.
  • Variants: A highly contagious variant identified in the United Kingdom is likely responsible for up to 30% of COVID-19 cases in the US. Public health experts are calling it a race between vaccination and variants.
  • Vaccine Equity: This brief from Kaiser Health News (KHN) provides an overview of states’ efforts to address racial equity in vaccine distribution. Plans include strategies, communication, outreach, and data collection.
  • Vaccine Hesitancy: A KHN poll reveals while vaccine hesitancy is dropping, 13% of Americans say they will “definitely not” be vaccinated. The poll also indicated messaging does not change the minds of those who have decided not to be vaccinated.


Violence and Our Health

Fear and heartbreak swept through Asian/Pacific Islander (API) and other communities in recent weeks as violent attacks erupted across the country. In response, leaders in public health and medicine are demanding change and offering solutions that address the links between violence, racism and a range of public health policies.

Initiatives & Resources:

Substance Use Disorder, Mental Health & the Impact of COVID-19

Experts warn that 2020 is likely to be the deadliest year on record for opioid overdoses with the pandemic creating the perfect storm for individuals suffering from substance use disorder. Additionally, new research suggests a surge of overdose deaths among Black Americans during the pandemic. Government, non-profit, and health care industry leaders are exploring new solutions.

Resources & Initiatives:

Economics, Young People and COVID-19

The pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of life for children, teens and young adults — shuttering schools, making college inaccessible, and destroying entry-level and early career jobs. The impact on children living in poverty has been dire. Educators and public health experts are working hard to understand the issues, protect child mental health, and provide educational and career opportunities.

Initiatives & Resources:

  • A recent Tradeoffs podcast explores the expanded child tax credit that was passed in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, detailing how it could impact the health and well-being of millions of kids in poverty.
  • Independence Blue Cross launches the GradFin program to help members overcome the burden of student loan debt.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee launched the BlueSky Tennessee Initiative, a groundbreaking collaboration to give students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in computing and a job offer at BlueCross in just two years.
  • A NIHCM infographic advises on helping children during the pandemic.

The Growing Crisis in Food & Housing Insecurity

The pandemic related economic downturn has exacerbated or led to food and housing insecurity for many individuals and families across the US. Research shows that food insecurity and housing instability are bidirectionally linked and therefore must be addressed together. A broad range of new approaches are emerging to attempt to solve the growing problem.

Initiatives & Resources - Food Security:

  • The US Department of Agriculture announced a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through September, or around $3.5 billion of assistance to people impacted by food insecurity.
  • Anthem Foundation partnered with the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) to update FRAC’s free, online toolkit and to assist pediatricians in identifying and addressing food insecurity among children and families.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is participating in the virtual Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign to help increase access to healthy food while promoting racial and health equity in the community.

Initiatives & Resources - Housing Security:

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