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Health News Roundup

Community health centers under stress, and more in this week’s roundup

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Community health centers serve 1 in 11 Americans. They’re a safety net under stress
Devi Shastri, The Associated Press, Jan. 29 
Community health centers serve as a critical safety net for low-income people of all ages in the United States. Since 2012, these centers have seen a 45% increase in the number of people seeking care. About one in 11 Americans rely on them to get routine medical care, social services, and in some cases, fresh food. Community health centers can help improve health disparities by understanding and being part of their communities. However, many centers are short-staffed and struggling to compete for doctors, mental health professionals, nurses and dentists. Funding is also a constant challenge.

Experiencing racism may physically change your brain
Jon Hamilton, Rachel Carlson, and Rebecca Ramirez, NPR, Jan. 24
Researchers are studying how the brain responds to traumatic events and extreme events, including racism. Researchers said while it is difficult to measure the impact of societal issues on an individual, they are able to do so indirectly. “We’re able to look at these sort of proxy measures in these outcomes of structural racism and then correlate those with both brain and behavioral responses to stress or trauma and see how they tie with different psychiatric disorders like PTSD,” said Nate Harnett, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

CT’s baby bonds program bridges wealth equity gap, but can be expanded, new report says
Abigail Brone, Connecticut Public Radio, Jan. 30
Connecticut’s baby bonds program invests $3,200 for children born in the state into low-income families. The funds will accrue and can be used for specific purposes like housing or college tuition when the child reaches adulthood. The program is in its first year for qualifying families. A new report by Connecticut Voices for Children highlighted ways in which the program could be improved. That includes a tiered eligibility system to expand the program’s reach and safeguards to ensure the funds’ value is adjusted for inflation. The report estimates that about 60% of Black and Hispanic newborns in the state each year will be baby bonds recipients.

Health care workers kept leaving the industry after pandemic: study
Tina Reed, Axios, Jan. 29
A new study found there has been a “substantial and persistent” increase in health care workers leaving the industry since the pandemic. It found a disproportionate number of women and Black workers exiting the health industry. Researchers said the constant exits can disrupt the continuity of care and result in poorer patient outcomes. While there has been an uptick in hiring, employers appeared to have a harder time recruiting Black workers after the pandemic, a trend that could exacerbate diversity issues within the workforce. 

Mississippi eyes quicker Medicaid coverage in pregnancy to try to reduce deaths of moms and babies
Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press, Jan. 31
Mississippi has the worst rate of infant mortality in the nation, with Black infants nearly twice as likely as white infants to die over the past decade. In an effort to address that, the state could soon allow Medicaid coverage earlier in pregnancy to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies. A bill passed by the state House would allow for a pregnant woman’s outpatient medical care to be paid by Medicaid as her application for coverage is being considered. This would allow for important early prenatal care as processing Medicaid applications can take weeks. Last year, Mississippi extended postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a year.