Health News Roundup

How a deadly air pollutant disproportionately harms Americans of color, and more in this week’s roundup

Deadly air pollutant ‘disproportionately and systematically’ harms Americans of color, study finds
Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears, The Washington Post, April 28
Nearly every source of the nation’s most pervasive and deadly air pollutant disproportionately affects Americans of color, regardless of their state or income level, according to a study published Wednesday. The analysis of fine-particle matter, which includes soot, shows how decisions made decades ago about where to build highways and industrial plants continue to harm the health of Black, Latino and Asian Americans today. The particles studied are known as Particulate Matter 2.5 and they account for between 85,000 and 200,000 premature U.S. deaths each year.

Why aren’t more communities using door knocking to get out COVID info? 
Alicia Diaz, STAT, April 27
A team of volunteers and community organizers have secured vaccine appointments for over 5,000 people in Fair Haven, a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood in New Haven. Experts agree that these kinds of door-knocking campaigns are a crucial tool for contacting hard-to-reach populations — especially immigrant communities that have been otherwise shut out from accessible vaccine information. But in most of the country, there has been more emphasis on video tools and virtual scheduling platforms, leaving those without internet literacy and Wi-Fi behind. It’s not as simple as propping up a door-knocking operation. Local health department staff and budgets are already stretched thin. And door-knocking works best if it is helmed by people who have already established relationships within their community.

Health leaders tackle low vaccination rates among Latinos
Brenda Leon, Connecticut Public, April 26
Nearly 1 million residents in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated. However, officials with the state Department of Public Health report that Hispanic communities still lag behind in the vaccine rollout. Numbers for other ethnic groups are also low. Hartford Health Director Liany Arroyo said she thought about barriers — from transportation to technology, language access and even age. Her team went as far as calling people to encourage them to get vaccinated. They used listservs like voter registration information and senior lists. “What we have found is that outbound calls really do make a difference. We also simplified our sign-up process,” said Arroyo. “We tried to be as innovative and as flexible.”

Inequality’s deadly toll
Amy Maxmen, Nature, April 28
A century of research has demonstrated how poverty and discrimination drive disease. Can COVID push science to finally address the issue? While scholarship on the social determinants of health has been growing for decades, real moves to fix the underlying problems are complex, politically fraught and, as a consequence, rare. To understand what makes confronting the social determinants of health so hard, the author investigated the tumultuous coronavirus response in the San Joaquin Valley, where hundreds of thousands of agriculture workers reside.

First Person: Black lives are shorter in Chicago. My family’s history shows why. 
Linda Villarosa, The New York Times Magazine, April 27
Chicago has the country’s widest racial gap in life expectancy: In the Streeterville neighborhood, which is 73 percent white, residents live, on average, to 90 years old; in Englewood, where nearly 95 percent of residents are Black, people live to an average of only 60. The story of Chicago’s yawning disparity between Black and white life spans was written through my own family history. How did a Promised Land to generations of Black families become a community of lost lives?