Health News Roundup

Black churches enlist mental health professionals to support their communities, and more in this week’s roundup

Amid COVID and racial unrest, Black churches put faith in mental health care 
Aneri Pattani, Kaiser Health News, December 1
As Black people face an onslaught of grief, stress and isolation triggered by a devastating pandemic and repeated instances of racial injustice, churches play a crucial role in addressing the mental health of their members and the greater community. Religious institutions have long been havens for emotional support. But faith leaders say the challenges of this year have catapulted mental health efforts to the forefront of their mission. Some are preaching about mental health from the pulpit for the first time. Others are inviting mental health professionals to speak to their congregations, undergoing mental health training themselves or adding more therapists to the church staff.

Undocumented and pregnant: Why women are afraid to get prenatal care
Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, November 22
As an undocumented immigrant, Britani had no health insurance and could not afford to pay for her prenatal treatment. Her only option was to apply for public benefits, but she had heard from friends that doing so could make her a target for deportation or jeopardize her pending green card application. While the public charge rule contains exemptions for some vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, many undocumented women are convinced that seeking public assistance would make them a target for deportation. The result has been an escalating climate of fear that is having disastrous consequences for the health of pregnant women and their babies.

CHOP-led study confirms COVID-19 is rare in kids, but more severe among children of color
Marie McCullough, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 23
A new study led by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that only 4% of pediatric patients tested were infected with the coronavirus, and the vast majority of those cases were mild or asymptomatic. The study reviewed the electronic health records of almost 136,000 pediatric patients, from infants to age 24. All were tested for COVID-19 either because they had symptoms or needed to be screened before admission for a medical procedure. What they found was that infection was more common, and more likely to be severe, among Black, Hispanic and Asian patients, adolescents ages 12 to 17, those with public health insurance, and those with certain chronic medical conditions.

The pandemic has left mothers struggling to feed their kids 
Shefali Luthra, The 19th, November 24
Like many families, Katherine Davila has been struggling to feed her family since March, when she lost her job as a preschool teacher. For food, she relies on donations from her local church and from charitable organizations. That means she isn’t always able to give her two kids — who have switched to remote learning — the snacks they’re used to having. Due to the pandemic-induced economic fallout, families across the country are under historic levels of financial strain and it’s exacerbating what was already a stark hunger disparity. Experts agree that, since women are more likely to be caring for children, they are already more vulnerable to experience food insecurity. That gap is now amplified in an economic turndown that has disproportionately penalized women, especially women of color.

‘It has to do with trust:’ Outreach on COVID vaccine begins in communities of color 
Jenna Carlesso, The Connecticut Mirror, November 27
As COVID-19 ripped through Connecticut this year, the Reverend Robyn Anderson saw longstanding systemic health disparities intensify as people of color, many of whom work in high risk, front-line jobs and live in densely populated communities, caught the virus and died from it at a greater rate than white residents. For some of these people, deeply rooted mistrust of the health care system has heightened, and Anderson knows that will make it more challenging as she prepares to engage communities of color across the state on the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccination.