NIHCM Newsletter / January 2021

Vaccine Distribution, Health Disparities & Resources

COVID-19 & Vaccine Distribution

The United States continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic with deaths recently surpassing 350,000 people and hospitalizations hitting record numbers. The introduction of the highly-transmissible U.K. variant and South African variant led to new calls for measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. With these challenges, the focus is being directed toward the production and distribution of the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. According to the Bloomberg COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, the federal government has now administered 14.7 million doses of the vaccine, yet only 47% of the shots distributed to states have been administered.

  • Vaccine Hesitancy: A new KFF poll shows that rural Americans, Black Americans and essential workers report high levels of vaccine hesitancy.

  • Vaccine Distribution Challenges: The New York Times reports on some of the challenges facing the states as they attempt to distribute the vaccines.

  • Dosing Schedule: The FDA released a statement urging people to follow the FDA-authorized dosing schedule for each COVID-19 vaccine, noting that more data and clinical evidence would be needed to support changing the dosing schedule.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • NIHCM recently hosted a webinar on the future of the COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution, featuring a member of President-elect Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board.

  • The Conversation compiled a doctor’s response to 5 vaccination questions and answers for parents asking about vaccinating children.

  • A new KFF analysis explores the different approaches that states are taking to manage the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and prioritization plans.

  • Trust For America’s Health released a new report on building trust and access to vaccines in communities of color and Tribal Nations.

  • Anthem and Lyft announced a partnership to provide free rides for members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced that it will cover the administrative cost of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Esri GIS has provided guidance and tips for mapping vaccine distribution.

Suicide & Prevention

The pandemic has elevated suicidal ideation levels, with one in four young adults struggling with suicidal thoughts. While the national suicide rate increased by 35% in the past two decades, funding for suicide prevention remains insufficient. The need to improve suicide prevention efforts in the United States is underscored by the emotional cost of the pandemic.

  • Well-being: A Brookings analysis illustrates that the emotional cost of the pandemic is much higher for poor and vulnerable populations, widening pre-existing disparities in well-being.

  • Racial Differences: A Johns Hopkins study examined suicide trends during the early days of the pandemic among Maryland residents. Black suicide mortality doubled while suicide mortality was halved among White residents.

  • Native American Youth: Health officials are focusing suicide prevention efforts on addressing a pandemic-related suicide spike among Native American youth. In a typical year, the suicide rate of Native American youth is nearly twice that of their White counterparts.

  • Isolation on Board: A new Bloomberg News Investigation reveals the impact of isolation on suicide among crew members on cruise ships, which were early COVID-19 hotspots.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

  • The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan awarded $650,000 in suicide prevention funding to nine Michigan organizations.

  • NIHCM’s webinar on suicide prevention delves into the data on suicides and explores a range of initiatives designed to prevent suicide in different communities.

Homelessness & Housing Security

The pandemic-induced economic downturn has increased housing insecurity for millions of individuals and families. With the federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of January, experts warn that we could see 40 million Americans homeless. For those already experiencing homelessness, the risk of COVID-19 infection remains high and the ability to follow social distancing, self-protection, or quarantining guidelines remains difficult, if not impossible.

  • Rising Numbers: Francesca Mari, a visiting lecturer at Brown University, discusses how the pandemic could increase homelessness in 2021 and what can be done to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

  • Trends & Winter: The Urban Institute recently released a report on the trends in unsheltered homelessness and a report on the additional challenges that winter poses during the pandemic as shelter capacity is limited.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • NASHP released a report on their two-plus year initiative to support the efforts of five multi-agency state teams working to help low-income and vulnerable populations become and remain stably housed.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina invested $250,000 in two Western North Carolina organizations working to end the cycle of homelessness.

  • Bloomberg reported on a new initiative and holistic approach to address the disproportionate impact of homelessness on Native Americans in Seattle. Learn more about how Native communities are impacted by the pandemic in this Urban Institute podcast.

  • The Urban Institute released a set of community strategies to understand and reduce veteran homelessness.

  • BCBSMA released a report summarizing a study examining the effect of a housing first model on health care utilization and costs among chronically homeless individuals in Massachusetts.

  • CMS issued new guidance for state Medicaid social determinants of health programs, including a focus on housing projects.

  • Learn more about the relationship between homelessness and health by viewing NIHCM’s webinar and infographic.

Addressing Health Disparities

The COVID-19 pandemic - while disproportionately impacting Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans - has highlighted the need to address systemic barriers to health care and to improve health equity. New initiatives to address these challenges and reduce health disparities include:

  • A new grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice supports two critical projects related to the youth justice system and the impact of COVID-19 on New Jersey’s Black community.

  • A new grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, with additional funding from CMU Educational Partners, supports the development of an end-of-life curriculum targeted toward African Americans that provides culturally relevant information about topics such as advanced directives, hospice, palliative care and wills.

  • The American Heart Association, along with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, is working to improve heart health among North Carolina’s most at-risk populations through a mini-grant program.

Oral Health Care

The pandemic has led to delays in oral health care, including preventative cleanings and treatments. While the potential transmission of COVID-19 in dental facilities has been of concern, an October study found that less than 1% of dentists had COVID-19, indicating that safety precautions were working.

  • Children’s Oral Health: Recent research shows how COVID-19 has deepened child oral health inequities. Additionally, pandemic-related school closures resulted in the suspension of programs supporting hygienist school visits to look for cavities and tooth decay.

  • Continued Care: The American Dental Association (ADA) released a statement supporting continued dental care during the pandemic and pointing to the CDC’s and ADA’s interim guidance.

Resources & Initiatives:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced a new donation to Covenant Community Care to fund the clinic’s investment in a 2D panoramic x-ray imaging system, improving the Detroit community’s access to high-quality restorative oral health care.

  • The National Rural Oral Health Initiative – a collaboration between the National Rural Health Association and the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement – compiled a list of resources and best practices for improving oral health among rural Americans during the pandemic and beyond.

  • ADA’s Give a Kid a Smile program continues to provide underserved children with free oral health services and has successfully pivoted programming to safely provide care during the pandemic.

NIHCM Awards

27th Annual NIHCM Awards Honoring Health Journalism and Research. Apply Now! Deadline January 22nd

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