Health News Roundup

Should people in hard-hit communities of color receive priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine? And more in this week’s roundup

Health experts want to prioritize people of color for a COVID-19 vaccine. But how should it be done?
Nicholas St. Fleur, STAT, November 9
As the U.S. edges closer to approving a vaccine for COVID-19, a difficult decision is emerging as a central issue: Should people in hard-hit communities of color receive priority access to it, and if so, how should that be done? Frontline health workers, elderly people, and those with chronic conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 are likely to be at the head of the line, but there is also support among public health experts for making special efforts to deliver the vaccine early on to Black, Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and Native American people — who have experienced higher rates of serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

Orange County struggles with health equity — and battles state restrictions
Anna Almendrala, Kaiser Health News, November 10
California state rules say large theme parks can’t open, even in a limited capacity, until there’s less than one new case per day per 100,000 county residents. The state also requires counties to lower infection rates in their poorest communities to near the average level of the county overall. In Orange County, as in the rest of the state, Latinos have borne the brunt of COVID cases and deaths. Under these requirements, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, another big county amusement park, will likely remain shut down. Orange County supervisors argue that it’s infeasible to quickly address the socioeconomic factors — including poverty and crowded housing — that cause some communities to have higher COVID positivity rates, and that the whole county shouldn’t be punished because of it.

Report: Racial disparities in maternal and infant health
Samantha Artiga, Olivia Pham, Kendal Orgera, and Usha Ranji, Kaiser Family Foundation, November 10
The COVID-19 pandemic along with the growing racial justice movement have highlighted longstanding disparities in health and health care for people of color, including stark disparities in maternal and infant health. Despite continued advancements in medical care, rates of maternal mortality and morbidity and pre-term birth have been rising in the U.S. and people of color are at increased risk for poor maternal and infant health outcomes. This issue brief provides an overview of racial and ethnic disparities across selected measures of maternal and infant health.

First person: How the Affordable Care Act kept me out of prison
Chandra Bozelko, Center for Health Journalism, November 9
One of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act is Medicaid expansion — insurance for childless low-income adults who can’t afford premiums and have little to no access to employer coverage. The states that expanded Medicaid and assured that inmates going home had access to health care reported significant reductions in reoffending. In one notable example, Michigan cut recidivism rates by more than half — from 46% to 21.8% — after it made physical and mental health care more accessible through Medicaid expansion. A nationwide survey found that when Medicaid coverage is available after release from prison, it deters both violent and public order crimes committed by people who had reoffended several times before. It’s not a small reduction either: crime among people historically likely to reoffend declined by 31% to 40%.