PI's Rachel Davis and Leslie Mikkelsen are in Orlando this weekend for the Association for Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) annual conference. Rachel’s panel discussion on Violence as a Public Health Issue, with Georges Benjamin and Gary Slutkin, was covered by MedPage Today and the AHCJ blog.
The New York Times provides a progress report on Richmond, California, and its work to incorporate “health in all policies” since 2009. “Richmond worked on incorporating health and wellness policies within plans for transportation, parks, policy and housing, as opposed to keeping health a separate issue. … On average, residents seem to be doing better since health equity became intertwined with the city’s plans. Surveys show that 43 percent of residents rated their health as excellent or good in 2015, up from 32 percent in 2011.”
Politico reports that the Trump administration wants a vote on the House's Obamacare repeal bill by midweek in order to give Trump a legislative victory before his 100th day in office. Lawmakers are reportedly eyeing the law’s requirement that most insurance plans offer 10 specific categories of “essential health benefits, such as hospital care, doctor and outpatient visits, prescription drug coverage, maternity care, mental health and preventive care services, KHN reports.This is meant to balance out the cost of keeping the ACA ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions—the removal of which has shown to be political dynamite.
News reports indicate that concern over opioid addiction and overdose deaths has prompted a growing number of communities to convene representatives from a variety of sectors to address the problem. Common items on the agenda: reducing stigma around substance abuse, collaborating across sectors to identify and address problems early on, and developing alternatives to prison for people with substance abuse problems. A sampling from recent weeks:
- In Plattsburgh, New York, 900 people gathered for a screening of Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict and a panel discussion featuring representatives from social and legal services, health care providers, and people personally affected by opiate addiction.
- In Columbus, Ohio, representatives of faith-based organizations, law enforcement, social services, and health organizations are developing a multi-pronged approach to address opioid addiction.
- In North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein is touring the state meeting with law enforcement, substance abuse specialists, and mental health professionals in different communities. ““The problem is statewide, but the solutions are going to come community by community,” he said.
- In Boston, business leaders and mental health professionals are organizing “Moving Beyond the Stigma,” a forum focused on changing the conversation about mental health and substance abuse.
The Cherokee Nation filed a lawsuit in tribal court this week accusing the nation’s top drug distributors of flooding Oklahoma communities with highly addictive painkillers, failing to prevent diversion to the black market, and profiting from the opioid epidemic, reports the Washington Post. In other opioid news, Kaiser Health News reports on how physicians are concerned about injuries associated with opioid use, such as nerve damage, broken bones, kidney failure and brain damage.
A growing number of healthcare facilities, including Johns Hopkins, are hiring people who were formerly incarcerated for entry-level jobs. “Studies show that employees with records stay in their jobs longer and are no more likely to commit workplace crimes than hires without them,” Stateline reports. Illinois this year began allowing folks with forcible felony convictions to petition for professional health care licenses, and in Penna, the state supreme court struck down a law prohibit people with record to work in long-term care, home care, or adult day facilities. But other states are passing laws to keep people with criminal records out of healthcare jobs.
New data reviewed by the Washington Post finds that 21,362 undocumented immigrants were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement between January 20 and March 15, 5,441 of whom had no criminal record. Vox reports that “The statistics confirm something millions of immigrants were already worried about: that once again, deportation is a constant threat.” The Guardian reports on a 23-year-old participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who is the first Dreamer to be forcibly deported from the US. A new Lancet study found that the creation of the DACA program in 2012 was associated with “large and clinically meaningful reductions in symptoms of psychological distress" among participants. Modern Healthcare reports that due to the administration’s more aggressive detainment and deportation policies, community health centers report that immigrant patients are making fewer appointments and skipping follow-up care.
STAT reports that more people are experiencing psychological distress, according to a study of adults in the US from 2006-2014. The study also found that roughly 10 percent of people with serious psychological distress delayed getting professional help because of a lack of health insurance coverage for mental health services.
San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen proposed a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. “The tobacco industry targets young adults, African Americans and LGBTQ people, deceptively associating these products with fruit, mints and candy," said Supervisor Malia Cohen. In related news, NYC’s mayor is proposing to raise the price-per-cigarette-pack to $13 from $10.50. California voters passed a $2 per pack tax hike on cigarettes last fall, but the tobacco industry is developing workarounds, including sending customers coupons to reduce the price of cigarettes. The New York Times interviewed public health experts, who “say the discounting strategy has been a part of the tobacco industry’s playbook for decades as it has sought to safeguard profits. At $2.87 a pack, the cigarette tax threatens to further erode that customer base. Reports have suggested that some smokers have already quit.
ThinkProgress reports on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and how her focus on discipline and “character developments” threatens to speed up the school-to-prison pipeline for students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students, especially LGBTQ students of color, who are all disproportionately likely to be targeted by “zero-tolerance” policies in schools. Washington Monthly raises DeVos’ experience with civil rights issues like the school-to-prison pipeline: “Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that she couldn’t think of any civil rights issues in education that would necessitate federal intervention.”
The Trump administration reversed an Obama-era ban on agricultural use of the pesticide chlopyrifos, which extensive research has linked to serious health risks for farmworkers and communities exposed to pesticide drift. Mother Jones reports that the Trump administration’s rejection of the ban “means that despite recent victories for families and environmentalists who have fought for more than a decade for protections from the insecticide, widespread use will continue in California, where a majority of the fruits and nuts in the US are grown.”
While air quality across the US has improved since the EPA began enforcing the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, Californians still breathe some of the most polluted air in the country. Quartz reports that eight out of 10 of the worst polluted cities are in CA, and 7 out of 10 CA cities have the worst ozone pollution, with Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, and San Jose-SF-Oakland topping both lists. Residents of these communities already face elevated risk of problems associated with increased air pollution, including lung cancer, early death, and developmental delays in children.
TFAH’s John Auerbach wrote an oped for STAT defending prevention as the most cost-effective way to fight chronic disease, citing TFAH’s new report.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced that $485 million in grants will be available to states for prevention and treatment programs addressing opioid misuse. The grants, announced at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, are part of 21st Century Cures Act. Price, who said that opioid addiction will be a key focus of his department’s work, said that an additional $500 million will be available next year.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Prince Harry talks about his struggles coming to terms with losing his mother Princess Diana at age 12, and how it affected his personal and work life. The Telegraph reports the Prince agreed to speak with journalist Bryony Gordon for the first episode of her podcast, Mad World, in which people speak about their experiences with mental health, to help “break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.” The Prince, along with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have launched the “Heads Together” campaign to encourage people with mental health concerns to reach out to family and friends for support.
More than two dozen medical groups have signed a statement in support of this weekend's March for Science, Politico reports. “The groups emphasized that the support is a ‘nonpartisan call for appreciation’ of science. But the Trump administration has called for slashing HHS' budget — including a $6 billion cut to NIH — as part of its 2018 budget blueprint.”
Writing in Health Affairs, two attorneys with the non-profit Legal Action respond to an earlier blog post that argued that it’s time to eliminate a requirement protecting the confidentiality of patients with substance abuse disorders. The post suggested that the confidentiality rules are outdated, perpetuate stigma, and prevent non-addiction clinicians who are not aware of the abuse from providing appropriate care. The lawyers disagree, writing that discrimination against patients with substance abuse problems persists, and that revealing their diagnoses could result in the loss of a job, housing, or children.