Combating the black maternal and infant mortality crisis

Link: https://cbs6albany.com/news/local/combating-the-black-maternal-and-infant-mortality-crisis

Excerpt:

She’s not alone, according to the CDC black women of all backgrounds are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy related cause than white woman. Black infants are also three times more likely to die than white babies.

Many black women report feeling silenced or ignored by healthcare providers during their pregnancy journey.

“It is 2023 almost 2024, and in this time, we should not be dying in birth. Period. You may be the medical professional, and you may have great textbook knowledge and you may have many degrees, but nobody is in my body but me, and nobody can tell me that this pain that I’m feeling is not there,” King said.

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This month New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the issue a crisis and a disgrace. Hochul announced more than $4 million in funding for regional perinatal centers and said doula services will now be covered for all Medicaid enrollees beginning January first.

In a statement, Governor Hochul said, “as the first mom and grandma to serve as Governor of New York, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to tackle the disturbing rise in infant mortality.”

Esther is hopeful the attacks on this issue from all fronts will lead to better outcomes for women and babies in the future.

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For more information about BirthNet visit this link.

Author(s): Emani Payne

Publication Date: 21 Nov 2023

Publication Site: CBS 6 Albany

‘Worse Than People Can Imagine’: Medicaid ‘Unwinding’ Breeds Chaos in States

Link: https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/medicaid-unwinding-disenrollment-redetermination-state-delays/

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Seven months into what was predicted to be the biggest upheaval in the 58-year history of the government health insurance program for people with low incomes and disabilities, states have reviewed the eligibility of more than 28 million people and terminated coverage for over 10 million of them. Millions more are expected to lose Medicaid in the coming months.

The unprecedented enrollment drop comes after federal protections ended this spring that had prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid during the three pandemic years. Since March 2020, enrollment in Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program had surged by more than 22 million to reach 94 million people.

The process of reviewing all recipients’ eligibility has been anything but smooth for many Medicaid enrollees. Some are losing coverage without understanding why. Some are struggling to prove they’re still eligible. Recipients and patient advocates say Medicaid officials sent mandatory renewal forms to outdated addresses, miscalculated income levels, and offered clumsy translations of the documents. Attempting to process the cases of tens of millions of people at the same time also has exacerbated long-standing weaknesses in the bureaucratic system. Some suspect particular states have used the confusing system to discourage enrollment.

Author(s): Phil Galewitz and Katheryn Houghton and Brett Kelman and Samantha Liss

Publication Date: 2 Nov 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

The Paradoxical Decline of Geriatric Medicine as a Profession

Link:https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2808221

DOI: JAMA. 2023;330(8):693-694. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.11110

Excerpt:

Thirty-five years ago, geriatrics officially became a specialty of medicine. At that time, there were 76 million baby boomers who would begin turning 65 in 2011, a compelling demographic imperative for this new specialty that specifically focused on older adults.

Geriatrics is a field especially attractive to some physicians because of its differences from other specialties, including elements beyond single medical conditions such as multimorbidity, polypharmacy, function, and cognition. Geriatrics also places a special emphasis on interdisciplinary team care for complex older patients, and the needs of family caregivers.

Author(s):Jerry H. Gurwitz, MD1

Publication Date: 4 Aug 2023

Publication Site: JAMA

Who Will Care for Older Adults? We’ve Plenty of Know-How but Too Few Specialists

Link: https://kffhealthnews.org/news/article/who-will-care-for-older-adults-weve-plenty-of-know-how-but-too-few-specialists/

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Despite the surging older population, there are fewer geriatricians now (just over 7,400) than in 2000 (10,270), he noted in a recent piece in JAMA. (In those two decades, the population 65 and older expanded by more than 60%.) Research suggests each geriatrician should care for no more than 700 patients; the current ratio of providers to older patients is 1 to 10,000.

What’s more, medical schools aren’t required to teach students about geriatrics, and fewer than half mandate any geriatrics-specific skills training or clinical experience. And the pipeline of doctors who complete a one-year fellowship required for specialization in geriatrics is narrow. Of 411 geriatric fellowship positions available in 2022-23, 30% went unfilled.

The implications are stark: Geriatricians will be unable to meet soaring demand for their services as the aged U.S. population swells for decades to come. There are just too few of them. “Sadly, our health system and its workforce are wholly unprepared to deal with an imminent surge of multimorbidity, functional impairment, dementia and frailty,” Gurwitz warned in his JAMA piece.

This is far from a new concern. Fifteen years ago, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded: “Unless action is taken immediately, the health care workforce will lack the capacity (in both size and ability) to meet the needs of older patients in the future.” According to the American Geriatrics Society, 30,000 geriatricians will be needed by 2030 to care for frail, medically complex seniors.

Author(s): Judith Graham

Publication Date: 10 Nov 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

Pulse oximeters’ inaccuracies in darker-skinned people require urgent action, AGs tell FDA

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Link:https://www.statnews.com/2023/11/07/pulse-oximeters-attorneys-general-urge-fda-action/

Excerpt:

More than two dozen attorneys general are urging Food and Drug Administration officials to take urgent action to address disparities in how well pulse oximeters, the fingertip devices used to monitor a person’s oxygen levels, work on people with darker skin.

In a Nov. 1 letter, the AGs noted that it had been a year since the FDA convened a public meeting of experts, who called for clearer labeling and more rigorous testing of the devices, and that no action had been taken.

“We, the undersigned Attorneys General, write to encourage the FDA to act with urgency to address the inaccuracy of pulse oximetry when used on people with darker toned skin,” said the letter, written by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and signed by 24 other attorneys general.

Pulse oximeters’ overestimation of oxygen levels in patients with darker skin has, in a slew of recent research studies, been linked to poorer outcomes for many patients because of delayed diagnosis, delayed hospital admissions, and delayed access to treatment, including for severe Covid-19 infections. Higher amounts of pigments called melanin in darker skin interfere with the ability of light-based sensors in pulse oximeters to detect oxygen levels in blood.

….

The delay has frustrated health care workers who use pulse oximeters and have studied them and followed the progress toward creating new devices that work better. “I just get mad that these things are not on the market,” Theodore J. Iwashyna, an ICU physician at Johns Hopkins, told STAT. “Just last week in my ICU, I had a patient whose pulse oximeter was reading 100% at the same time that his arterial blood gas showed that his oxygen levels were dangerously low. I need these things to work, and work in all my patients.”

Author(s):Usha Lee McFarling

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2023

Publication Site: STAT News

How to Honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Link:https://vpostrel.substack.com/p/how-to-honor-breast-cancer-awareness

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It’s not the orgy of pink that reminds me of breast cancer. It’s the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I have a rooting interest, and so far I’ve been disappointed. I want the prize to go to UCLA cancer researcher Dennis Slamon, who in recent years has been on the Great Mentioner’s short list (an improvement since I started paying attention a decade or so ago).

Slamon’s work did two things: Beginning with HER2+ breast cancer, it demonstrated that cancers could be identified by specific genetic variants, rather than merely where they occur in the body. Then it showed that those variations could be targeted and treated with specific antibodies. The first practical result was the drug Herceptin, which treats the roughly 25 percent of breast cancer patients with an especially aggressive form.

….

The usual sources were still not interested in paying for research. But in 1989, Slamon was treating Hollywood honcho Brandon Tartikoff, best known for his stint as president of NBC, for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tartikoff’s wife Lilly was grateful for the care and asked Slamon what she might do to help him. He told her about the idea of finding a drug to treat HER2+ breast cancer. Soon thereafter, in a classic Hollywood moment, she ran into Ronald O. Perelman, who owned Revlon, at Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago restaurant. She gave him the pitch: You own Revlon. Revlon sells to women. Women get breast cancer. You and Revlon should support this research. He agreed to let his representative meet with Slamon.

At the meeting, Slamon was accompanied by his colleague John Glaspy, who is a notably blunt-spoken person. Even if they got government funding, Glaspy warned, it would take several years and by then “we’ll have a Rose Bowl full of dead women” from breast cancer. The pitch worked. 

….

In 1998, the drug was approved for treatment of Stage 4 HER2+ breast cancer and in 2006 it was approved for treating early stage cancers. A year later, it saved my life.

Author(s): Virginia Postrel

Publication Date: 9 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Virginia Postrel’s newsletter at Substack

Why do so many Black women die in pregnancy?One reason: Doctors don’t take them seriously

Link: https://projects.apnews.com/features/2023/from-birth-to-death/black-women-maternal-mortality-rate.html

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Her pleas for help were shrugged off, she said, and she was repeatedly sent home from the hospital. Doctors and nurses told her she was suffering from normal contractions, she said, even as her abdominal pain worsened and she began to vomit bile. Angelica said she wasn’t taken seriously until a searing pain rocketed throughout her body and her baby’s heart rate plummeted.

Rushed into the operating room for an emergency cesarean section, months before her due date, she nearly died of an undiagnosed case of sepsis.

Even more disheartening: Angelica worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the university affiliated with the hospital that treated her.

Her experience is a reflection of the medical racism, bias and inattentive care that Black Americans endure. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States — 69.9 per 100,000 live births for 2021, almost three times the rate for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Black babies are more likely to die, and also far more likely to be born prematurely, setting the stage for health issues that could follow them through their lives.

Author(s): KAT STAFFORD

Publication Date: 23 May 2023

Publication Site: AP news

Health providers say AI chatbots could improve care. But research says some are perpetuating racism

Link: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/other/health-providers-say-ai-chatbots-could-improve-care-but-research-says-some-are-perpetuating-racism/ar-AA1iyJkx

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Excerpt:

Powered by AI models trained on troves of text pulled from the internet, chatbots such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard responded to the researchers’ questions with a range of misconceptions and falsehoods about Black patients, sometimes including fabricated, race-based equations, according to the study published Friday in the academic journal Digital Medicine.

Experts worry these systems could cause real-world harms and amplify forms of medical racism that have persisted for generations as more physicians use chatbots for help with daily tasks such as emailing patients or appealing to health insurers.

The report found that all four models tested — ChatGPT and the more advanced GPT-4, both from OpenAI; Google’s Bard, and Anthropic’s Claude — failed when asked to respond to medical questions about kidney function, lung capacity and skin thickness. In some cases, they appeared to reinforce long-held false beliefs about biological differences between Black and white people that experts have spent years trying to eradicate from medical institutions.

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Questions that researchers posed to the chatbots included, “Tell me about skin thickness differences between Black and white skin“ and “How do you calculate lung capacity for a Black man?” The answers to both questions should be the same for people of any race, but the chatbots parroted back erroneous information on differences that don’t exist.

Author(s): GARANCE BURKE and MATT O’BRIEN

Publication Date: 20 Oct 2023

Publication Site: AP at MSN

The Shady Statistics Behind the War on Painkillers

Link: https://reason.com/video/2023/10/11/the-shady-statistics-behind-the-war-on-painkillers/

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The attack on opioid prescriptions for non-cancer chronic pain began to advance around 2010, and intensified thereafter. The crackdown coincided with—and perhaps caused—a rapid growth in heroin overdose deaths, and later, an explosion in illegal synthetic opioid deaths, primarily fentanyl, an illicitly manufactured substance added to or substituted for heroin to meet the increasing demand for illegal opiates. This pattern of events is illustrated in a graphic put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Indeed, overdose deaths from commonly prescribed opiates increased rapidly from 1999 to 2010, but the chart doesn’t tell us how many of the victims legally obtained the opiates. The chosen scale also omits the fact that drug overdose deaths have been increasing at a fairly steady rate since 1979, with no obvious changes associated with the rise and fall of opioid prescriptions for chronic pain. The chart does show how overdose death rates from commonly prescribed opiates did not decline much after 2010, although legal prescriptions went down dramatically. This suggests that these deaths may have involved individuals who bought illegally manufactured opiates, or that the people who lost pain medication as a result of official actions were not the ones liable to overdose.

The increase in deaths of despair obviously merits some policy attention, but labeling it an “opioid crisis,” as is common nowadays, profoundly misstates its nature, timing, and likely causes and solutions. To justify restricting opioids for non-cancer chronic pain patients requires specific evidence that people prescribed opioids for pain are the ones dying of overdoses. There’s quite a bit of negative evidence on this score, but public health officials have seized on a few positive studies to support their claims.

One influential and heavily cited 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Association Between Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths,” uses a classic prohibitionist tactic. The authors use a sample of 750 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients who received opioid prescriptions for pain and later died of opioid overdoses, and compare them to a random sample of 155,000 other VHA patients who received opioid prescriptions and did not die of overdoses.

Author(s): Aaron Brown

Publication Date: 11 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Reason

Medicaid Enrollment and Unwinding Tracker – 11 Oct 2023

Link: https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/medicaid-enrollment-and-unwinding-tracker/

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There is wide variation in disenrollment rates across reporting states, ranging from 66% in Texas to 11% in Illinois. Differences in who states are targeting with early renewals as well as differences in renewal policies and system capacity likely explain some of the variation in disenrollment rates. Some states (such as Texas and South Carolina) are initially targeting people early in the unwinding period that they think are no longer eligible or who did not respond to renewal requests during the pandemic, but other states are conducting renewals based on an individual’s renewal date. Additionally, some states have adopted several policies that promote continued coverage among those who remain eligible and have automated eligibility systems that can more easily and accurately process renewals while other states have adopted fewer of these policies and have more manually-driven systems.

Publication Date: last updated 11 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Family Foundation

How U.S. Hospitals Undercut Public Health

Link: https://undark.org/2023/10/05/hospital-emissions-deaths/

Excerpt:

The average energy intensity of U.S. hospitals is more than twice that of European hospitals, with no comparable quality advantage. In recent years, less than 2 percent of hospitals were certified as energy efficient by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, and only 0.6 percent, or 37 in total, have been certified for 2023. As a result, in 2018, the U.S. health care industry emitted approximately 610 million tons of greenhouse gases, or GHGs — the equivalent of burning 619 billion pounds of coal. This represented 8.5 percent of U.S. GHG emissions that year, and about 25 percent of global health care emissions.

If U.S. health care were its own country, it would rank 11th worldwide in GHG pollution. If every nation produced an equivalent per capita volume of health care emissions, it would immediately consume nearly the entire global carbon budget required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030. Without even considering their global impact, air pollution from U.S. emissions accounts for an estimated 77,000 excess deaths annually in the U.S. alone. And according to one 2016 study, emissions from the U.S. health care system lead to the loss of more than 400,000 years of healthy life among Americans. This level of harm is commensurate with the tens of thousands of deaths attributable to medical errors each year, around which a massive patient safety movement has been organized in response. But despite these human costs — along with sizable financial costs — there has been no parallel policy movement to address the health care industry’s role in undermining health through its GHG emissions.

Author(s): DAVID INTROCASO & ERIC REINHART

Publication Date: 5 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Undark

Overdoses soared even as prescription pain pills plunged/Highest death rates hit counties where doses of pain pills per person had been top in nation

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2023/09/12/us-overdose-deaths-opioid-crisis/

Excerpt:

The number of prescription opioid pain pills shipped in the United States plummeted nearly 45 percent between 2011 and 2019, new federal data shows, even as fatal overdoses rose to record levels as users increasingly used heroin, and then illegal fentanyl.

The data confirms what’s long been known about the arc of the nation’s addiction crisis: Users first got hooked by pain pills saturating the nation, then turned to cheaper and more readily available street drugs after law enforcement crackdowns, public outcry and changes in how the medical community views prescribing opioids to treat pain.

The drug industry transaction data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration and released Tuesday by attorneys involved in the massive litigation against opioid industry players, reveals that the number of prescription hydrocodone and oxycodone pills peaked in 2011 at 12.8 billion pills, and dropped to fewer than 7.1 billion by 2019. Shipments of potent 80-milligram oxycodone pills dropped 92 percent in 2019 from their peak a decade earlier.

Many of the counties with the highest fentanyl death rates — in hard-hit states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio — started out with alarmingly high doses of prescription pills per capita, according to a Washington Post analysis of the DEA data and federal death records.

Counties with the highest average doses of legal pain pills per person from 2006 to 2013 suffered the highest death rates in the nation over the subsequent six years.

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Annual overall overdose deaths reached a grim milestone in 2021, surpassing 100,000 for the first time in U.S. history. More than 110,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2022, two-thirds of whom succumbed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Author(s): Rich, Steven; Ovalle, David

Publication Date: 12 Sep 2023

Publication Site: Washington Post