Health News Roundup

Global health database holds clues to addressing inequality, and more in this week’s roundup

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How do you get equal health care for all? A huge new database holds clues
Nurith Aizenman, NPR, April 23
This week, the World Health Organization unveiled the Health Inequality Data Repository, a sweeping new database highlighting global health inequalities that need to be addressed. Billed as the world’s most comprehensive collection of statistics on the topic, the database allows users to compare how people of differing incomes, ages, genders and rural-versus-urban settings compare on more than 2,000 measures of health. Users can also upload and analyze their own data.

Diversity in medicine can save lives. Here’s why there aren’t more doctors of color
Maria Godoy, NPR, April 20
For decades, leading medical organizations have been trying to diversify the ranks of physicians, where Black and Hispanic doctors remain vastly underrepresented. These efforts matter, because research has shown that people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups can have better health outcomes when their doctors look like them. But a recent study highlights the factors, including financial pressures and discrimination, that can keep determined students of color from actually making it to medical school.

A California physician training program adds diversity, but where do graduates end up?
Stephanie Stephens, KFF Health News, April 25
University of California’s Programs in Medical Education encourages students of color to pursue medical degrees to help diversify the field and ease the physician shortage, particularly in underserved communities. The university system launched the program in 2004, and has expanded it to all six UC medical schools, many with an emphasis on medically underserved communities. Researchers found the program has succeeded at diversifying enrollment, but there is not enough long-term data to know whether the medical school graduates ultimately practice in regions where they’re most needed. UC administrators say their data shows promising results.

Study: Black women should start breast cancer screening at age 42
Ambar Castillo, STAT, April 19
A large new study suggests that if Black women begin screening for breast cancer at age 42, it could help lower racial disparities in breast cancer deaths. Breast cancer is slightly less prevalent among Black women in the U.S. compared to white women. But they have a 40% higher risk of dying due to early-onset breast cancer. For that reason, “the current one-size-fits-all policy to screen the entire female population from a certain age may be neither fair nor equitable nor optimal,” researchers write in the study.

Report: CT government AI use can have bias, civil rights implications, needs greater transparency
Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, April 25
Algorithms used by state government can be biased toward marginalized communities, with negative impacts on day-to-day lives, according to a new report. “Algorithms can create or perpetuate discrimination through reliance on data sets that are historically biased, consideration of proxy variables for race, differential accuracy rates between groups, and more,” the report said. “Sometimes this bias is intentional, but more often it is a result of unintentional bias on the part of programmers, historical biases in the data, or the unintentional consequence of giving the program specific goals that fail to account for disparate impacts.”