Health News Roundup

What states can learn from the Cherokee Nation about curbing the spread of COVID-19, and more in this week’s roundup

How the COVID-19 pandemic has been curtailed in Cherokee Nation
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, November 17
The Cherokee Nation provides a good example of how to successfully handle the coronavirus pandemic. With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its COVID-19 cases and deaths even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma. Elsewhere, tribal areas have been hard-hit by the pandemic: With 140,000 citizens, Cherokee Nation has only seen 4,000 cases and 33 deaths. The Navajo Nation, in contrast, has seen nearly 13,000 cases and more than 600 deaths among its 170,000 citizens.

In recovering urban areas, homeownership makes all the difference
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, The Connecticut Mirror, November 16
Compared to other states, Connecticut has the second-largest gap for homeownership rates between its white and Latino residents, the largest gap between mixed-race and white residents, and the 15th biggest gap between Black and white residents. Homeownership has long been one of the best ways for families to accumulate wealth, but for generations, it has been elusive for many Black and Latino families. Making the inequality even worse today are exclusionary local zoning requirements that thrive throughout Connecticut and the old age of most of the housing stock meaning that homeownership in Connecticut usually requires additional funding for renovations.

Connecticut’s halfhearted battle: Response to lead poisoning epidemic lacks urgency
Jenifer Frank, The Connecticut Health Investigative Team, November 17
Lead poisoning, a major systemic crisis, damages the health and development of hundreds of thousands of children across the U.S. every year, including thousands in Connecticut. Because of testing deficiencies and gaps in reporting, the true number of lead-poisoned children in Connecticut is unknowable. Connecticut children are also victims of the state’s weak lead inspection statutes, which only requires an active inquiry when a child’s lead blood count is at least three times the CDC recommended level. Just as COVID-19 has spotlighted racial inequities in housing and health care nationwide, the lack of a concerted campaign against lead poisoning has racial and racist undertones. Black children are poisoned at more than twice the rate of white children, and Hispanic children at 1½ times the rate, in part because Black and Hispanic families are more likely to live in older, substandard housing.

What doctors aren’t always taught: How to spot racism in health care
Elizabeth Lawrence, Kaiser Health News, November 17
Faculty members and student activists around the country have long called for medical schools to increase the number of students and instructors from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds to improve treatment and build inclusivity. They are also demanding that medical schools eliminate the use of race as a diagnostic tool and recognize how systemic racism harms patients and heightens health care disparities.

The Biden adviser focused on the pandemic’s stark racial disparities
Joanne Kenen, Politico, November 19
President-elect Joe Biden named health care inequality expert and Yale University professor of medicine Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to help lead the transition’s coronavirus advisory board. Among Nunez-Smith’s immediate concerns: ensuring that minority communities get priority access to the vaccines that may start becoming available as early as next month – and restoring their trust in science and government so that they are not afraid to get immunized. The choice of Nunez-Smith for Biden’s advisory board makes clear his interest in addressing longstanding disparities that have exacerbated and have been exacerbated by the pandemic.