Health News Roundup

To understand why COVID-19 killed so many young Black men, you need to know the legend of John Henry, and more in this week’s roundup

How COVID-19 hollowed out a generation of young Black men
Akilah Johnson, Nina Martin, ProPublica, December 22
While COVID-19 has killed 1 out of every 800 African Americans, even more shocking is the deadly efficiency with which it has targeted young Black men. One study using data through July 2020 found that Black people ages 35 to 44 were dying at nine times the rate of white people the same age. To gain a deeper understanding of why America has lost so many young Black men to COVID-19, ProPublica began collecting their stories and speaking to health experts who specialize in Black men’s health. Their efforts led them to a little-known body of research that takes its name from one of the most enduring symbols of Black American resilience, John Henry.
Related: Black men have the shortest lifespans of any Americans. This theory helps explain why. Joseph Singer, Nadia Sussman, Nina Martin, Akilah Johnson, ProPublica, December 22

In minority communities, doctors are changing minds about vaccination
Gina Kolata, The New York Times, December 31
Across the country, Black and Hispanic physicians are reaching out to Americans in minority communities who are suspicious of COVID-19 vaccines and often mistrustful of the officials they see on television telling them to get vaccinated. But the assurances of Black and Hispanic doctors can make an enormous difference, experts say. Many physicians now find themselves not just urging friends and relatives to get the vaccine, but also posting messages on social media and conducting group video calls, asking people to share their concerns and offering reliable information.

COVID ‘decimated our staff’ as the pandemic ravages health workers of color
Danielle Renwick, Modern Healthcare, January 5
COVID-19 has taken an outsize toll on Black and Hispanic Americans. And those disparities extend to the medical workers who have intubated them, cleaned their bedsheets and held their hands in their final days. One recent study found health care workers of color were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to test positive for the virus. They were more likely to treat patients diagnosed with COVID, more likely to work in nursing homes and more likely to cite an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment.

Black doctor dies of COVID-19 after complaining of racist treatment
John Eligon, The New York Times, December 23
Dr. Susan Moore, a patient at a hospital in suburban Indianapolis, said the white doctor at the hospital where she was being treated for COVID-19 had downplayed her complaints of pain. This dismissive treatment persisted and even her training as a medical doctor was not enough to get her the treatment and respect she said she deserved. After being discharged, Dr. Moore died from complications related to COVID-19. Dr. Moore’s case has generated outrage and renewed calls to grapple with biased medical treatment of Black patients. Research suggests that Black patients often receive treatment inferior to their white counterparts, particularly when it comes to relieving pain.
Related: Opinion: Susan Moore’s death underscores the racism embedded in the US health care systemAletha Maybank, Camara Phyllis Jones, Uché Blackstock, Joia Crear Perry, The Washington Post, December 26

Black women find healing (but sometimes racism, too) in the outdoors
Chandra Thomas Whitfield, Kaiser Health News, January 6
A Colorado woman formed an adventure group to encourage other Black women to enjoy the outdoors, and now it has chapters across the U.S. and Canada. Yet many Black adventure seekers say they often face racism when partaking in healthy outdoor activities. The most recent National Park Service survey found that 6% of visitors are Black, compared with 77% white. Research shows that Black women experience higher rates of chronic preventable health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and that racial discrimination also may increase stress, leading to health problems and underscoring the need for stress-reducing physical activities. Efforts to draw more Black people, especially women, outdoors, must include addressing barriers, like cost and transportation.