Health News Roundup

Disparities in autism diagnosis and school suspensions, the biological toll of homelessness, and more in this week’s roundup


Connecticut students with ‘emotional disturbances’ face high rate of suspensions
Patrick Skahill and David DesRoches, WNPR, May 19
An analysis of state data by Connecticut Public Radio shows that students with emotional disturbances are four times more likely to be thrown out of class than the average student. During the 2017-18 school year, roughly one-third of these students were suspended or expelled — more than any other disability by a wide margin. Additionally, black students get the “emotional disturbance” label at a rate twice as high as all other racial and ethnic groups combined, and these students face potentially life-long consequences that include higher dropout rates and a lower likelihood of post-secondary education, according to the National Center for Special Education Research.


Autism diagnosis: Latinos face obstacles
Annika Darling, CT Latino News, May 16
Latinos are the fastest-growing population in the U.S., yet they have the lowest autism diagnosis rate. The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better the long term outcome, yet when Latino children are diagnosed with autism, they tend to be diagnosed, on average, 2.5 years older than non-Latino children. For families that primarily speak Spanish, the barriers include a shortage of Spanish-speakers who specialize in diagnosing and treating autism.

Black men not at higher risk of dying from prostate cancer, study finds
Shamard Charles, NBC News, May 23
For African American men, the risk of dying from prostate cancer is the same as that of white men when access to care and treatment are equal, a new study finds. This casts doubt on the widely held belief that, when it comes to African American prostate health, genetic factors play a larger role than health disparities. The results of the study were published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Stephen Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, May 22
Expanded access to Medicaid was associated with 1.6 fewer maternal deaths per 100,000 women compared with states that didn’t expand the program. The infant death rate also fell more dramatically in Medicaid expansion states—by more than 50% from 2010 to 2016. Those findings were in a report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Researchers found that expansion states saw fewer racial health care disparities compared with the 17 states that have yet to expand. “There’s no one answer to improve our care for women of childbearing age and mothers,” said report co-author Adam Searing. “But we do have a clear place where we can start and that really is expanding Medicaid coverage in the states that haven’t yet expanded and maintaining good Medicaid coverage in the states that have.”
Amy Maxmen, Nature, May 21
Neurologist Serggio Lanata observed similarities in the behavior of some older homeless people and patients he had treated for dementia in the clinic. Now he is embarking on a study to better understand the interplay between degenerative brain disorders and life on the street. The work ties into an ongoing effort to understand the biological effects of homelessness in older people. People living on the streets might face several factors that can contribute to neurological disease, Lanata says, such as lack of sleep, exposure to polluted air near highways, poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and alcohol abuse. Understanding why living on the street seems to cause rapid aging could help homeless people — and governments.