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Health News Roundup

Black children receive epilepsy surgery less often, and more in this week’s roundup

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Life-extending epilepsy surgery performed less often in Black children, study finds
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT News, Dec. 1
Black children and children insured through Medicaid who suffer from drug-resistant epilepsy may be less likely to receive surgical treatments than white and privately insured patients. The surgical treatments can end or minimize the children’s seizures and extend their lives. A study found that Black and publicly insured patients were more likely to be treated only with anti-seizure medication and have shorter life spans than white children. “When you look at who is getting these treatments, it’s very different.” said Sandi Lam, lead author of the study. Lam said other studies have shown racial and ethnic disparities in epilepsy care. Many Black and Hispanic children also face a delay in diagnosis.

Many people of color worry good health care is tied to their appearance
Colleen DeGuzman, KFF Health News, Dec. 5
A new survey on racism, discrimination, and health found that many people of color prepare for possible insults during health care visits or feel they must be careful about their appearance in order to be treated fairly. The survey of nearly 6,300 patients who have had care in the past three years found that about 55% of Black adults worried about their appearance before appointments while only 29% of white adults said the same. Among the other findings, a third of adults reported at least one of several negative experiences with a health care provider, and nearly a quarter of Black adults believed they endured negative treatment because of their race or ethnicity. The survey also found that discrimination outside the health care system had health consequences.

CT approves closure of labor and delivery at Windham Hospital
Katy Golvala, The Connecticut Mirror, Dec. 1
The state’s Office of Health Strategy has approved a plan to terminate labor and delivery services at Windham Hospital. A condition of the state’s approval is that the hospital must hire an independent third party to assess the need for and feasibility of establishing a birthing center in the area. If the need is there, the hospital will either have to find a provider to operate a birthing center or operate it. The OHS had initially denied the closure due to potential negative outcomes including exacerbating health inequities and diminishing access. Two other rural hospitals in Connecticut have pending applications to terminate birthing services.

New gene therapies confront many sickle cell patients with an impossible choice: a cure or fertility
Megan Molteni, STAT News, Dec. 6
A treatment for sickle cell patients that is expected to be approved by the FDA soon has the potential to rid those patients of pain associated with the disease. However, it also causes a high-risk of infertility. Most of the approximately 100,000 Americans with sickle cell are Black. This treatment, CRISPR, and other gene therapies have been promoted as an opportunity to make racial health reparations for the injustices generations of sickle cell patients faced. Experts have concerns that the infertility risks are largely unaddressed, undermining those efforts.

White House delays menthol cigarette ban, alarming anti-smoking advocates
Matthew Perrone, AP News, Dec. 6
U.S. health regulators are facing an unexpected delay in their plan to ban menthol cigarettes. The White House said it will take more time to review the plan and expects the process to continue into next year. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that banning menthol cigarettes could prevent 300,000 to 650,000 smoking deaths over several decades. Most of those preventable deaths would be among Black Americans, who disproportionately smoke menthols. An estimated 85% of Black smokers buy menthols. The White House has agreed to meet with groups opposing the ban. It is now targeting March to implement the rule, months later than initially expected.