Health News Roundup

Promising new colon cancer screening, and more in this week’s roundup

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Where’s the Narcan? At pharmacies across the U.S., the OTC antidote can be hard to find
Sara G. Miller and Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, Mar. 11
Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, has been available over the counter since September. Amid America’s opioid epidemic, the goal was to make Narcan more readily accessible for anyone who might need it. The drug can act in minutes to reverse an overdose and save lives. However, the rollout has been inconsistent across the U.S. While most major drugstores and big-box store pharmacies carry the drug, it is often displayed in different locations and not always easy to find. Convenience stores and gas stations were found to not sell Narcan, limiting where it can be purchased.

How bad is maternal mortality in the U.S.? A new study says it’s been overestimated
Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR, Mar. 13
A new study suggests the national U.S. maternal mortality rate is much lower than the most recent report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That report stated the rate was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 births. According to the new study, it is actually 10.4 deaths per 100,000 births. Racial disparities still persist even with the lower overall rate. Black pregnant people are still three times more likely to die than white pregnant people. Experts said measuring maternal deaths is complex. They also emphasized that most maternal deaths are preventable.

Every new mom in this U.S. city is now getting cash aid for a year
Jennifer Ludden, NPR, Mar. 12
Flint, Mich. has one of the country’s highest rates of child poverty. A new program aims to address that problem by giving every new mother $7,500 in cash aid over a year. The program, RxKids, starts during pregnancy with $1,500 for prenatal care. After delivery, mothers will get $500 a month over the baby’s first year. Among wealthy nations, the U.S. is an outlier in not offering more generous cash benefits. Research has found that stress from childhood poverty can harm a person’s physical and mental health and impact brain development.

OPINION: A late, but not too late, apology for the shameful use of Black bodies
Theresa Vargas, The Washington Post, Mar. 13
Virginia lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution which acknowledges “with profound regret the unethical use of Black bodies by medical institutions in the Commonwealth.” The apology comes decades after a Black man’s heart was used in a transplant without his family’s consent. “Bruce Tucker was the victim of a racist system that devalued his life and did not acknowledge him as humankind and therefore did not treat him that way,” said his cousin Gayle Turner, when she testified in front of lawmakers. Tucker’s story is one of many in the U.S. in which Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies have been historically experimented on in the name of scientific and medical advancements.

A blood test shows promise for early colon cancer detection
Gina Kolata, The New York Times, Mar. 13
Early detection of colon cancer can prevent a majority of deaths. However, only about 50-75% of those who should be screened regularly are being tested. Doctors said, in part, it is because people can be put off by the screening methods. The only options are a colonoscopy every 10 years or a fecal test every one to three years. A blood test may soon be another option. A new study found that a colon cancer blood test showed promising results. While it did detect cancers at an early and curable stage, it missed most large polyps, which could later turn into cancers.