Health News Roundup

COVID’s shadow health crisis, how to fix vaccine and life expectancy disparities, and more in this week’s roundup

Missed doctors’ appointments have created COVID’s shadow health crisis, experts say 
Emma Court, Bloomberg, Feb. 9
During a year when many hospitals saw a crush of COVID-19 patients, other kinds of medical care dropped off sharply. Insulin prescriptions went unwritten, and HIV tests were untaken. Cancer care was pushed off or canceled. These disruptions, compounded by job losses that added to the ranks of uninsured Americans, have created a shadow health crisis. Experts say that medical care that was deferred or avoided in 2020 could worsen many Americans’ health in the longer term and inflate medical costs for years to come. While COVID has taken a heavy toll on communities of color, the secondary crisis also risks exacerbating racial health disparities.

How to close the life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans
German Lopez, Vox, Feb. 24
The Black-white life expectancy gap can be distilled to one fact: U.S. society has, in many ways, made it easier for a white person to live a fully healthy life than a Black person. The good news is this is an area where good policy changes can make a real impact — literally life or death for Black communities. There are policy solutions focused on health care and the broader underlying causes of these disparities. However, because the gap is in part driven by outright discrimination, fully closing the gap will likely require more than policy.

As mass vaccination centers take the lead in the COVID race, the push is on to reach the most vulnerable
Dave Altimari, The Connecticut Mirror, Feb. 25
As the state pivots to an age-based vaccination schedule, it will rely on mass vaccination centers to solve a problem that has vexed the rollout — getting more shots to the state’s minority, mostly city-dwelling residents. While mass vaccination sites — such as the one built on an air strip at Rentschler Field in East Hartford — have helped the state’s overall vaccination numbers rank among the best in the country, they have not reached the state’s most vulnerable populations, who so far have been left behind. After studying their own vaccination numbers, the state’s hospitals are also trying different techniques to reach the minority population they have so far missed.
Related: Opinion: Break all vaccine rules to end the racial gap we can’t measure, Dan Haar, Hearst Connecticut Media, Feb. 23

Most vaccine trials fail to report data on participant ethnicity or race
Nicholas St. Fleur, STAT, Feb. 19 
An analysis of the demographics of a decade’s worth of vaccine clinical trials has found that Black Americans, Latinos, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives, as well as people age 65 and older, were underrepresented as participants within these studies. More striking, the researchers said, was that of the 230 trials they examined — encompassing some 220,000 people — more than 40% did not record participants’ race and about 65% did not report their ethnicity. (The study did not include data on COVID-19 vaccine trials, which were ongoing at the time of the study.)

West Hartford is mostly white, while Bloomfield is largely Black. How that came to be tells the story of racism and segregation in American suburbs 
Alex Putterman, The Hartford Courant, Feb. 19
To some residents of Connecticut suburbs, the racial and socioeconomic composition of their towns can feel obvious and predestined, as though determined by some immutable force: West Hartford is majority white and middle class, while Bloomfield is majority Black with lower levels of income and wealth. A glance through history, though, shows that isn’t remotely the case.