Health News Roundup

How a big-city health department embraced health equity, what people do when medicine is unaffordable, and more


For a big-city health department, a new focus on health equity
Rebecca Gale, Health Affairs, March 2019
New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has added health equity as a lens for its work. This has led to changes including shifting resources into neighborhoods with the most detrimental health outcomes and changing its structure and staff composition to reflect the diversity of the city. Here’s what that looks like on the ground in Brownsville, a Brooklyn neighborhood with the highest rate of premature mortality in New York City, one of the highest rates of infant mortality, and one of the lowest life expectancies


When medicines are unaffordable, here’s how patients cut costs
Megan Thielking, STAT, March 19
One in five U.S. adults prescribed medicines say they’ve asked their doctor for a cheaper option, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients also asked for a cheaper drug or avoided taking medicine as prescribed. Strategies to save money were far more common among people who were prescribed drugs but didn’t have health insurance, nearly 40 percent of whom asked their doctors for less expensive treatments. “These are pretty high proportions of people, and most concerning is [those] not taking their medication as prescribed,” said Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy researcher at Vanderbilt University.

Report: High housing costs tied to poor health
Katelyn Newman, U.S. News & World Report, March 19
The annual County Health Rankings report determined that 11 percent of households – as many as 800,000 – spent more than half of their incomes on housing costs. Communities in which neighborhoods were more racially segregated had higher rates of severe housing costs, and black households within these counties were more-critically impacted by this burden, with nearly 1 in 4 spending more than half of their incomes on housing compared to 1 in 10 white households. “Our homes are inextricably tied to our health,” Dr. Richard Besser, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO, said. “It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing. This leaves them with fewer dollars to keep their families healthy.”


Undocumented families, advocates press for expansion of state-funded health care
Jenna Carlesso, The Connecticut Mirror, March 19
Advocacy groups estimate there are as many as 17,000 undocumented children and teens under 19 in Connecticut. Lawmakers are considering allowing them to receive coverage through the state’s HUSKY health plan using the same eligibility guidelines as other children from low-income families. To proponents, it’s a matter of life and death for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable people. Detractors said the cost of adding thousands of children to the health plan would overburden a state that is already in fiscal crisis.


Understanding Community Health Workers: Who they are and why they matter for Connecticut
Community health workers can play a vital role in improving health outcomes, lowering costs, and targeting health disparities, yet their role in the health care system remains precarious and not widely understood. A new report from the Connecticut Health Foundation tells the stories of Connecticut community health workers and provides findings from research on the workforce and its potential.