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Health News Roundup

Alzheimer’s diagnoses come later for Black patients, and more in this week’s roundup

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Blacks face more delays in Alzheimer’s diagnosis than whites, Hispanics, study finds
Kristen Fischer, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Nov. 29
A new study found that Black patients received medical imaging for cognitive impairment years later than white or Hispanic patients. Researchers found that Black individuals also had less access to MRI technology, which gives the most detail. The average age when Black people underwent imaging for cognitive impairment was 72.5 years compared to 67.8 years for white people and 66.5 years for Hispanics. Other research has shown that Black individuals have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia but are less likely to receive a diagnosis.

Liver injury in Black Americans may be connected to lead exposure
Isabella Cueto, STAT News, Nov. 27
New research suggests a link between Black Americans’ higher exposure to environmental toxins and advanced liver scarring. Researchers at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that Black participants’ liver scarring was associated with their blood lead levels. The more lead detected in a blood sample, the more advanced liver injury and scarring that person had. Liver scarring can lead to disease and cancer. The study also found that Black participants had higher blood levels of almost all pollutants associated with liver disease. The link between low-level toxins, like lead, and liver injury is still not fully understood. However, researchers said the findings suggest chronic disease may be driven at least in part by the environments people live in.

Asian American health disparities hidden by lumping data together
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT News, Nov. 21
In medical research and public health in the United States, people of Asian ancestry are often grouped together into one single racial category. The broad category of Asian is used to make funding and policy decisions. However, those nearly 25 million Americans come from vastly different cultural, linguistic, and genetic backgrounds. According to health experts, lumping together such a diverse group can be harmful to people’s health by complicating efforts to identify and combat health disparities. “You cannot have health equity without data equity,” said Ninez Ponce, director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. Research that takes a closer look at subgroups of Asian Americans has found disparities do exist. For example, the cervical cancer rate for Hmong women is three times that of the rate for all Asian Americans.

More Americans could get dental coverage under Biden proposal
Maya Goldman, Axios, Nov. 21
Dental care could soon become more widely available to adults who buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services proposed allowing states to include adult dental services as an “essential health benefit.” That would mean ACA health plans would cover the services without imposing annual or lifetime limits on customers. The proposal would likely benefit people of color and those with lower incomes who are more likely to have poor oral health. Oral health is important to a person’s overall health. Gum disease, for example, is tied to cardiovascular issues and diabetes. The new proposal would narrow a long-standing coverage gap in the ACA.

Deaf patients face limited interpreting services in CT hospitals, health outcomes suffer
Cris Villalonga-Vivoni, Record-Journal, Nov. 19
Deaf patients in Connecticut are experiencing issues accessing sign language interpreting services at medical centers across the state. When John Silva of Hartford was taken to Hartford Hospital for a stroke-like attack last year, there were no in-person sign language interpreters available, and the video remote interpreting system was also unavailable. Silva underwent examinations with lip-read instructions and relied on a speech-to-text transcriber he provided. “We want equal access and if there’s no interpreter, then we don’t have equal access,” said Luisa Gasco-Soboleski, president of the Connecticut Association of the Deaf. Studies have shown that communication issues can result in worsened health outcomes for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.