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.
- Interim recommendations from the CDC say what fully vaccinated people can and should do.
- Learn about the history of vaccine backlash in NIHCM grantee Healthcare Triage’s recent videos.
- NIHCM grantee Tradeoffs podcast examines how improving public health messaging can address COVID-19 disparities.
- Arkansas BCBS launches a statewide website to empower business leaders to encourage employees to be vaccinated.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is collaborating to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines in underserved neighborhoods.
- The Public Health Communications Collaborative released English and Spanish resources to support COVID-19 communications efforts.
- This piece from El Pais provides information on avoiding COVID-19 indoors and the importance of ventilation in crowded spaces.
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.
- Public Health Response: The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association denounce anti-Asian/Pacific Islander violence and call for action.
- Call for Change: The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a statement against violence in the API community.
- Federal Policy: The Biden Administration moves to strengthen hate crime prevention policies.
- Racism and Health: The Office of Minority Health reports on how battling racism improves health equity.
- Violence in the US: A new report in the Washington Post highlights a 64% increase in firearm sales, an ongoing epidemic of violence, and how the pandemic exacerbated the problem.
- Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander Discrimination: The New York Times reports that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders faced nearly 3800 hate incidents in just the last year and other forms of discrimination.
Initiatives & Resources:
- Tradeoffs podcast reports on current and coming data from new federal gun violence research funding.
- Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield Nevada launches a new program to address trauma, suicide and complex mental health issues.
- Stop AAPI Hate provides a portal for reporting hate incidents as well as other resources and news.
- Five API mental health resources from Verywell Health.
- CDC advice on taking a public health approach to violence prevention.
- The Journalist's Resource advice on covering anti-Asian hate crimes.
- Healthcare Triage reports on the link between gun violence and suicide.
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:
- The Biden Administration is providing nearly $2.5 billion to states and territories to address the substance use and mental illness crisis.
- The Bipartisan Policy Center hosted a webinar on Tackling America’s Mental Health and Addiction Crisis Through Primary Care Integration.
- A new Kaiser Family Foundation report looks at the implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use.
- Project Opioid has partnered with Florida Blue Foundation to build a statewide collaboration to address the opioid crisis in Florida.
- A new toolkit from NASHP provides state strategies to support SUD treatment through the primary care safety net.
- Shatterproof released the Shatterproof Addiction Language Guide, which is a comprehensive tool that highlights stigmatizing language and provides alternatives.
- NIHCM’s 2020 webinar outlines the challenges of and key strategies for addressing substance use disorders during the pandemic and beyond.
- New NIHCM Infographic: Synthetic Opioids Driving a Worsening Crisis of Overdose Deaths
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.
- Fighting Child Poverty: Bloomberg News reports child poverty crisis sparks congressional action.
- Impact of Biden Plan: The Center on Social Policy reports the American Rescue Plan could cut child poverty to roughly 6% from 14%.
- College Student Health: PBS NewsHour explores the pandemic and college student mental health.
- Reimagining Education: Leaders talk to the Washington Post about changing schools after COVID-19.
- Unemployment: The Wall Street Journal reports on the crisis of unemployed college graduates.
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:
- The CDC announced a 90-day extension of the federal eviction moratorium.
- A new NASHP report highlights state strategies for vaccinating individuals experiencing homelessness against COVID-19.
- PBS News Hour reports on how the pandemic has made finding housing harder for transgender people.
- Register now for an April 13th Brookings & The Hamilton Project event on rethinking unemployment insurance and housing support, and policies to protect workers and families.
- The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism hosted a webinar on the growing housing crisis and its implications for health and wellbeing.
- View NIHCM’s resources on social determinants of health, including webinars and infographics on food and housing security.
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