Health News Roundup

Contact tracers screening for mental health issues, and more in this week’s roundup

Black Americans are getting vaccinated at lower rates than white Americans
Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News, January 17
In 16 states that have released data by race, white residents are being vaccinated at significantly higher rates than Black residents — in many cases two to three times higher. Access issues and mistrust rooted in structural racism appear to be the major factors leaving Black health care workers behind. “My concern now is if we don’t vaccinate the population that’s highest-risk, we’re going to see even more disproportional deaths in Black and brown communities,” said Dr. Fola May, a UCLA physician and health equity researcher.

COVID-19 contact tracers in Spokane are now screening people for mental health issues
Arielle Dreher, The Spokesman-Review, January 18
On a daily basis, contact tracers encounter people in the midst of stressful times, with the pandemic affecting employment and financial security, not to mention health. “We’re asking people to quarantine and to isolate, and their first question is ‘What about my job? What will I tell my employer?’” said Eden Lopez, who leads contact tracing teams in Spokane, Wash. Contact tracers in Spokane now receive training in mental health first aid and listen for cues that could indicate the person they are calling would benefit from additional assistance. They can connect people with professionals and other resources.

Door to door in Miami’s Little Havana to build trust in testing, vaccination
Verónica Zaragovia, WLRN/Kaiser Health News, January 21
A nonprofit with extensive outreach experience, Healthy Little Havana has a very specific assignment: persuading residents to get a coronavirus test. Many residents face social and economic barriers to getting tested, treated, or to isolating themselves if they get sick. Many can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick. Some don’t have cars to get to testing sites. Among the solutions: Ready Responders, a group of paramedics that gives free coronavirus tests in people’s homes, and collaborations with public housing authorities to provide at-home testing.

Black doctors explain how to overcome reluctance toward the COVID vaccine
Julia Craven, Slate, January 16
Five physicians who deal with health disparities in the Black community shared how they intend to address the subject among their patients and what broader strategies may be effective. Each doctor mentioned the more commonplace run-ins patients have with medical providers who treat them differently because they’re Black. And they discussed how history — such as the U.S. Public Health Service survey at Tuskegee and the story of Henrietta Lacks — informs both the present-day wariness Black patients have toward doctors and the provider actions that provoke uncertainty.

Dangerous heat, unequal consequences
Sofia Moutinho and Elisabeth Gawthrop, Columbia Journalism Investigations and The Center for Public Integrity, January 19
Federal data capturing most emergency room visits and hospitalizations in Arizona and Florida reveal higher rates of heat-related illnesses in areas with less income. The data also show that the highest rates of heat-related illnesses are in neighborhoods with a history of racial segregation. Experts say racist policies of the past created conditions, never corrected, that make heat more dangerous for people there today. Another study of more than 108 cities nationwide concluded that the hottest neighborhoods are those located in formerly redlined areas — areas designated as high-risk for lenders decades ago because they had higher populations of people of color.