Health News Roundup

Finding a better way to measure skin tone, and more in this week’s roundup

To get these headlines delivered to your inbox every week, sign up for our weekly health news roundup.

Before making unbiased pulse oximeters, researchers need a better way to measure skin tone
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, Dec. 5
There’s a growing consensus among physicians and government regulators that pulse oximeters measure oxygen levels less accurately in patients with darker skin and need to be fixed. There’s another problem, however, that needs to be fixed first. The issue with pulse oximeters is not one of race – it’s very clearly one of skin tone. There hasn’t been a good way to characterize differences in skin tone in medical research. It’s something Ellis Monk wants to fix.

For the uninsured, COVID care has entered a new stage of crisis
Noah Weiland and Sarah Kliff, The New York Times, Dec. 6
Difficulty getting care for COVID-19 has become an increasingly common problem for poor, uninsured people. For much of the pandemic, the federal government covered the cost of vaccinating, testing, and treating the uninsured. However, the federal government is running low on funds for COVID care for the nearly 30 million Americans who are uninsured.

After stillbirth, undocumented woman organizes partnership to help others find better care
Harriet Jones, Connecticut Health I-Team, Nov. 30
Laura Garcia, an undocumented and uninsured resident of Norwalk, faced delivering a stillborn child after her concerns had been ignored. The loss of her son left her determined to act. Garcia began a partnership with providers and other undocumented women to provide educational workshops on reproductive rights and accessing quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

‘The hospital never supported the midwives’: As more birth centers open, their viability hinges on nearby hospitals
Theresa Gaffney, STAT, Dec. 2
From 2020 to 2021, the number of birth centers across the country almost doubled to over 400. The centers are typically staffed by midwives, focused on unmedicated births and regular reproductive care in comfortable non-hospital settings. But the recent closure of a hospital-owned birth center in Massachusetts raised questions about the role of hospital consolidation and business decisions on the birthing options that are available.

Community health groups that played a crucial role during COVID-19 pandemic say they’re being left out of government funding
Elizabeth Cohen and Lauren Mascarenhas, CNN, Nov. 28
As the federal government distributes investments to improve public health, grassroots organizations that played a key role during the pandemic say they’re being overlooked. Advocates say that although funding streams may name “community-based organizations” or “community health workers,” the funding often goes to states and doesn’t trickle down to the grassroots level.
Related: The role of community health worker services in COVID-19 response efforts