Health News Roundup

A health system embeds community health workers in clinics, and more in this week’s roundup

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Community health workers, experts in the in-between, fight for their place in the system 
Ambar Castillo, STAT, Aug. 7
There’s extensive research on the benefits of community health worker services in improving outcomes, addressing patients’ medical and social needs, and reducing costs. Yet in most of the U.S., community health workers don’t work as full colleagues alongside clinical staff. By contrast, the Community Health Worker Institute at Montefiore, part of the Montefiore Health System in New York, now embeds community health workers directly into health service operations and is building a pipeline to sustain and advance these workers. Experts say it’s a forward-thinking model.

Amid lack of accountability for bias in maternity care, a family seeks justice
Sarah Kwon, KFF Health News, Aug. 8
April Valentine, a 31-year-old Black mother, died while giving birth in Inglewood, California, on Jan. 10. Her family has raised questions of improper care: Why didn’t nurses investigate numbness and swelling in her leg, symptoms she reported at least 10 times over the course of 15 hours? Why did it take nearly 20 hours for her doctor to see her after she arrived at the hospital already in labor? A KFF Health News analysis shows state authorities are ill-equipped to investigate discrimination complaints and often avoid fining hospitals that violate regulations. That highlights a big gap in the state’s ability to hold doctors and hospitals accountable when it comes to reducing bias in maternal care.

Black women weigh emerging risks of hair straighteners
Ronnie Cohen, KFF Health News, Aug. 1
Social and economic pressures have long compelled Black girls and women to straighten their hair to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. Mounting evidence now shows that chemical straighteners could be a health hazard. Relaxers can contain carcinogens, according to National Institutes of Health studies. The compounds can mimic the body’s hormones and have been linked to breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers, studies show. African American women’s often frequent and lifelong application of chemical relaxers to their hair and scalp might explain why hormone-related cancers kill disproportionately more Black than white women, say researchers and cancer doctors.

Latinos underrepresented among physicians, overrepresented as aides
Erin Blakemore, The Washington Post, Aug. 6
Latinos — especially Mexican Americans — remain underrepresented in the U.S. medical workforce, according to a recent analysis. The study found that Latino and Hispanic groups are underrepresented in medical professions that require advanced degrees and overrepresented in similar professions that don’t require a bachelor’s or higher degree. Underrepresentation among Latino health-care workers is a concern because data suggests racially and ethnically diverse and culturally competent medical providers can help reduce health-care disparities among minority populations.

Pandemic slowed cancer diagnoses, but late-stage cancers came back with a vengeance
Simar Bajaj, STAT, Aug. 4
Early-stage cancer diagnoses decreased by nearly 20% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study found that because of disruptions in care, patients were more likely to get diagnosed with deadly metastatic disease. Stage 4 cancer diagnoses were 7% more likely in 2020 and that communities of color were particularly hard hit, suggesting significant long-term consequences. Experts underscored that, to address these disparities and the impact of delayed cancer diagnoses, the health care system should do a better job of meeting people where they are.