Health News Roundup

Racial disparities in how doctors screen for opioids, food swamps flooding Dallas, and more in this week’s roundup

health equity

On top of food deserts, Dallas’ Hispanic and black populations also flooded with food swamps
Obed Manuel, Dallas News, August 17
East Dallas, an area that, on top of being identified as a food desert, is littered with what researchers have recently coined food swamps — areas where fast-food options and convenience stores outnumber healthy food options. Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut released a study that proposed the idea that the prevalence of food swamps may have a stronger impact on a community’s health than the oft-discussed phenomenon of food deserts. The study, conducted in an urban setting, also found that minorities and low-income people are more likely than whites to live near unhealthy food retailers.

Why are black and Latino kids more likely to die of certain cancers?
Erin Blakemore, NPR, August 20
When it comes to cancer survival, the United States is sharply divided by race. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cancer death rate for African-Americans is 25 percent higher than whites, and Hispanics and Latinos are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a late, and more dangerous, stage of the disease. Kids aren’t exempt from those disparities either — black and Hispanic children are more likely to die of many childhood cancers than their white counterparts. So what explains the survival gap?

The secret to keeping black men healthy? Maybe black doctors
Gina Kolata, The New York Times, August 20
Black men seeing black male doctors were much more likely to agree to certain preventive measures than were black men seeing doctors who were white or Asian. “The magnitude of the effect is so huge, how can you ignore it?” said Dr. David Cutler, a professor of applied economics at Harvard University. Although 13 percent of the population is black in the United States, just 4 percent of doctors are black.

Yale research finds racial disparity in screening of opioid patients
Rebecca Lurye, The Hartford Courant, August 22
Black patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain are more likely than whites to be tested for illegal drug use, and to lose their prescriptions when they test positive, a new Yale report shows. The study suggests that doctors are more often allowing white patients to continue using opioids in the face of evidence that they are using other illegal drugs, “even though research has shown that whites are the group at highest risk for overdose and death” from prescription opioids, says study author Julie Gaither, a pediatrics instructor at the Yale School of Medicine.


Medicaid called key to CT health, economy
Andrea Sears, Public News Service, August 23
Medicaid is best known as a health insurance program that provides coverage to low-income Connecticut residents, but it also plays a key role in the state’s economy, budget, and ability to weather economic challenges, according to a report released this week by the Connecticut Health Foundation.