Health News Roundup

Language barriers to getting vaccine appointments, and more in this week’s roundup

Community health workers could turn around quality of life
Sojourner Ahébée, WHYY, March 22
About a decade ago, Shreya Kangovi and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania interviewed 1,500 people in Philadelphia on porches, at hospital bedsides, and in shelters — people who were living in high-poverty communities. All the people interviewed were asked one question: What makes it hard for you to stay healthy? Kangovi and her team used those interviews to develop IMPaCT, a standardized, scalable program that leverages community health workers — trusted lay people from local communities — to improve health. In the last three years, it has become the most widely disseminated community health worker program in the United States.

‘Press 1 for English’: Vaccination sign-ups prove daunting for speakers of other languages 
Rachana Pradhan, Kaiser Health News, March 23
Concerns about equity have loomed large in the nation’s mass COVID vaccination effort. Distribution of doses has been spotty among underserved populations, many of whom have been hit disproportionately by COVID hospitalizations and deaths. Barriers to vaccinating those groups begin with providing basic information about the shots and getting people registered. Several individuals in interviews said the immigrant populations they work with, including Asians and Latinos, are eager to be vaccinated. But the barriers are steep, including lower rates of technology literacy and how well they speak English, if at all.

Death in the prime of life: COVID-19 proves especially lethal to younger Latinos
Akilah Johnson, The Washington Post, March 15
The coronavirus has targeted Latinos in their 30s and 40s with deadly efficiency. In California, which has the nation’s largest Hispanic population, state figures show that Latino people ages 35 to 49 died of the virus at more than 5½ times the rate of white people the same age. The staggering loss of life at younger ages, plus higher overall mortality rates, is projected to have caused Latinos’ life expectancy nationally to plummet by about three years during 2020. A team of community health workers are working to reverse that tide of death.

Stop blaming Tuskegee, critics say. It’s not an ‘excuse’ for current medical racism
April Dembosky, KQED, March 24
When Karen Lincoln asks Black seniors about the vaccine, the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study rarely comes up. People in the community talk about contemporary racism and barriers to health care, she says, while it seems to be mainly academics and officials who are preoccupied with the history of Tuskegee. “It’s a scapegoat,” said Lincoln, a professor of social work at USC and founder of Advocates for African American Elders. “It’s an excuse. If you continue to use it as a way of explaining why many African Americans are hesitant, it almost absolves you of having to learn more, do more, involve other people – admit that racism is actually a thing today.”

CDC under scrutiny after struggling to report COVID race, ethnicity data 
Erin Banco and Darius Tahir, Politico, March 9
Gathering accurate and relatively complete race and ethnicity data has been a longstanding problem in public health. One 2016 study compared five different databases containing data on cancer patients diagnosed at two hospitals, and found that the availability of race and ethnicity data varied wildly — from 28.1% in one record system to 99.9% in another. The reasons for these problems are complex. But collecting such data has become more critical during a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt people of color. Public health experts believe such data, from cases to vaccinations, is necessary to figure out what communities might need targeted interventions.