Health News Roundup

The powerful message of Black women being among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and more in this week’s roundup

Of course women of color were among the first to get vaccinated 
Chabeli Carrazana, Barbara Rodriguez, The 19th, December 15
In hospitals across the country this week, woman after woman became the first in their states to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, serving as symbols of the risks health care workers have faced this year. More than 75 percent of health care workers fighting the coronavirus are women — many of them Black and Latina, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. It’s no coincidence, then, that the first vaccine given in the United States went to Sandra Lindsay, a Black nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. It was administered by Dr. Michelle Chester, also a Black woman. It conjured a powerful message in a year in which Black people have been more prone to get the virus due to systemic racism.
Related: Video: As vaccinations begin, mistrust is a major hurdle in some communities, Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC, December 14

Tethered to the machine
Lizzie Presser, ProPublica, December 15
Although chronic kidney disease affects people of all races at similar rates, Black Americans are three to four times more likely than white Americans to reach kidney failure. Even at the final stages of this disease, they are less likely to get a transplant. It is one of the most glaring examples of the country’s health disparities, one that Tanjala Purnell, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist and health equity researcher, calls “the perfect storm of everything that went wrong at every single step.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor
Liz Hamel, Ashley Kirzinger, Cailey Muñana, and Mollyann Brodie, Kaiser Family Foundation, December 15
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and focus groups, this project will track the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development unfolds, including vaccine confidence and hesitancy, trusted messengers and messages, as well as the public’s experiences with vaccination as distribution begins.

Can opportunity zones revive struggling neighborhoods?
Tom Condon, The Connecticut Mirror, December 14
Opportunity Zones are a federal tax incentive intended to draw private investment to distressed neighborhoods. A year ago it was one of the hottest ideas around and Connecticut even created a website and appointed a coordinator of the program. Officials saw the incentive as a tool for inclusive growth, a way to plan and organize investment in underserved communities. A year later, the program is struggling. One of its incentives has lapsed, it’s been touched by scandal in some parts of the country, it has no public reporting requirement and may be benefiting rich investors more than distressed communities. Despite this, many say that opportunity zones can still work.

Opinion: Too big to ignore: 7 recommendations to address our growing mental health crisis
David E. Wennberg, Patrick J. Kennedy, Health Affairs Blog, December 14
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the U.S. was already experiencing a mental health crisis and the data suggests that the events of 2020 have only exacerbated that crisis. In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, the murder of George Floyd sparked a movement to finally address the realities of systemic racism, which continues to pervade our culture, only amplified by the disproportionate health and economic toll COVID-19 has had on Black and Latinx communities. No one specific policy is going to solve the problems with the U.S. mental health care system. Health Affairs outlines seven key steps that can pave the way for a better system.