Health News Roundup

A new tool to track health disparities, and more in this week’s roundup

A new tool tracks health disparities in the U.S. — and highlights major data gaps
Katie Palmer, STAT, May 26
The pandemic has reinforced the reality of racial disparities in the U.S. health system. But that story remains difficult to see in the data, which is still inconsistently collected and reported across the country. A coalition of researchers and advocates at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine launched a tool they hope will fill some of those gaps: the Health Equity Tracker, a portal that collects, analyzes, and makes visible data on some of the inequities entrenched in U.S. medicine.

With Black women at highest risk of maternal death, some states extending Medicaid
Christine Herman, NPR, May 25
When a woman dies during pregnancy or within a year of childbirth in Illinois, that’s considered a maternal death. A recent analysis found that about 75 women in Illinois die from pregnancy-related causes each year. Consistent with national trends, Black women are at greater risk than white women, and the vast majority of the deaths were preventable. One policy change that would remove some of the barriers to health for many of these women is to make sure low-income moms enrolled in Medicaid don’t lose that coverage after their baby is born. Currently, some women can lose that coverage as soon as 2 months after giving birth.

CT’s civil rights enforcement agency: segregation has ‘particularly deadly effect’ amid pandemic
Jaqueline Rabe Thomas, The Connecticut Mirror, May 24
The Connecticut watchdog agency tasked with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws produced a report on the role housing segregation is playing to disproportionately kill Black and Latino residents during the pandemic. The impact of segregation was especially troublesome during the pandemic, because the same minorities who live in segregated areas and work in jobs, such as grocery stores and nursing homes that couldn’t be performed from home, were disproportionately impacted by COVID itself. Black residents in Connecticut have a death rate from COVID-19 that is more than twice that of white residents, while the death rate for Hispanics is nearly 2 times that of whites, according to state data.

These sisters with sickle cell had devastating and preventable strokes
Gina Kolata, The New York Times, May 23
Kyra Jones, a twelve year old with sickle cell, suffered a devastating stroke – a common complication of this disease, which afflicts 100,000 Americans, most of them Black. She most likely would never have had the two strokes if she had been given an annual screening test and treatment proven more than two decades earlier to prevent nine out of 10 strokes in children with the disease and recommended by the National Institutes of Health. But like countless other children with sickle cell, she was never screened.

How medical jargon can make COVID health disparities even worse
Fran Kritz, NPR, May 24
The scientific evidence on what to do to prevent and treat COVID-19 has been changing rapidly over the past year. Simply keeping up with the latest understanding and guidance has been especially challenging for a number of groups in the U.S. especially people who speak little or no English. Translating the medical jargon into understandable guidance has to be done carefully otherwise it can have devastating consequences. For example, the common medical guidance that anyone who thinks they might have COVID-19 should call a doctor. Translated incorrectly it could be interpreted as ‘Don’t go to the emergency room until you call your doctor — even if you have symptoms of severe illness.’ And that could, in some cases, be a fatal mistake.