Articles Posted in Research Studies

covidshotlines1-300x170As the nation recoils from the deadly insurrectionist attack on Congress and the United States Capitol, a direct line also must be drawn to the huge health harms that President Trump and his administration incited with a flood of falsehoods, relentless attacks on science and expertise, and the reckless politicization of public health.

This administration will leave office with the nation hurtling toward 400,000 coronavirus deaths and 22 million infections. The disease is unchecked. New cases and hospitalizations are breaking records by the instant. The situation is likely to worsen significantly before it improves, experts warn.

The best efforts to battle Covid-19 also — due to a shambolic and too often counter-factual federal response — must combat the misinformation, mistrust, and animus sown during a needlessly destructive presidential term.

compare-202x300A lot of people in health care across the country are firing up their computers to dig into long-sought, confidential information from hospitals about their prices and deals they cut on them with an array of parties.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Trump Administration successfully battled with hospitals to get them to disclose previously secret pricing data, in the hopes that disclosing this key information will benefit the U.S. health care system, notably in curbing costs. Here’s why, as the newspaper reported:

“T]hose who pay for health-care premiums and medical bills — employers, workers and patients — were long in the dark about wide price differences among hospitals for the same service in the same city, according to research and efforts by large employer groups to compare prices. Hospital prices are under intense scrutiny as the sector consolidates and research points to price increases after mergers, but without the quality gains that hospitals often cite as rationale for the combinations.

artjanlett5-300x164In yet another instance of disregarding fact-based advice, the Trump Administration, after hearing public comments and assembling a panel of diet and nutrition experts, has rejected their  recommendations on how the federal government should update its counsel to Americans about optimizing their eating.

The federal advisories, refreshed every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will stay mostly the same, with the administration turning away experts who told the government that it should urge the public to reduce consumption of sugar and alcohol. USDA did tweak its guidelines for babies and toddlers.

But the agency decisions were a disappointing turn in a periodic process that affects real people’s lives, experts said, with the New York Times reporting:

covidhealthcasualties-300x130As the nation closes out 2020 and months of a raging coronavirus pandemic, will old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind?

Covid-19, unchecked, has killed at least 330,000 Americans and almost 19 million of us have been infected with the disease.

Those numbers likely are underestimated. Based on still tallying “excess deaths” in this country — the higher than expected number of fatalities above the norm and likely due to the coronavirus, the truer toll from Covid-19 as of Dec. 16, likely exceeds 377,000.

covidshot-126x300Even as medical scientists have detected a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus that also may pose greater risks to children, the high hopes for a faultless roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines are getting tempered with unhappy doses of reality.

Roughly 1 million Americans have been vaccinated already, most with a product from Pfizer and some with a vaccine from Moderna.

That is good news to start. It may, however, also start to raise concerns about the plans to inoculate more than 300 million Americans, many with a two-shot vaccine. That’s because Trump Administration officials had forecast with great confidence in recent days that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated before 2020’s end.

mckinseylogo-300x169Heaps of ignominy are not in short order for parties that played sketchy roles in fostering the nation’s deadly opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis. The stain has spread now to one of corporate America’s most-favored advisors — the giant McKinsey consulting group.

The firm has issued a rare public mea culpa for its work with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a family-run drug maker that has gained notoriety, even among Big Pharma companies, for how it hyped its powerful painkiller OxyContin. The relentless push to sell that drug, officials have asserted, provided a ghastly template for peddling opioids, triggering abuse, addiction, debilitation, and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent times.

Purdue was a McKinsey client, and the consultants now are re-examining their advice to the drug maker on how to fire up OxyContin sales and whether these suggestions fell short of the firm’s own standards. The New York Times, to its credit, dug into records to detail the consultants’ unacceptable conduct, reporting:

coverwithkareem-300x211A growing body of research is better explaining why the novel coronavirus has taken such a terrible toll on communities of color and especially black Americans. The evidence underscores the urgency for the nation to address racial injustice and inequities, particularly in health care.

As the New York Times reported, experts analyzing mountains of data are seeing that “there is no innate vulnerability to the virus among black and Hispanic Americans … Instead, these groups are more often exposed because of social and environmental factors.” The newspaper found this in talking to experts about their multiple, often sizable studies:

“The[ir] new findings do not contradict an enormous body of research showing that black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, compared with white people. The coronavirus is more prevalent in minority communities, and infections, illnesses and deaths have occurred in these groups in disproportionate numbers … [But among] many other vulnerabilities, black and Hispanic communities and households tend to be more crowded; many people work jobs requiring frequent contact with others and rely on public transportation. Access to health care is poorer than among white Americans, and rates of underlying conditions are much higher. ‘To me, these results make it clear that the disparities in mortality that we see are even more appalling,’ said Jon Zelner, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who led one of the new studies.”

bentcostcurvekff-300x147The nation has gotten some long-desired, important health care economic news: The country  has “bent the cost curve,” seeing 2020 as the first year in at least six decades in which America’s health care spending went down. But this may not be a good thing.

As Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), reported of his organization’s economic data:

Year-to-date spending on health services is down about 2% from last year. Health spending for the calendar year may end up lower than it was in 2019.  Adding spending for drugs, which are less affected by Covid-19 and have not fallen, total health spending is still down by about 0.5% from last year. At its low point in April when the pandemic first really hit, spending on health services had fallen an eye popping 32% on an annualized basis. This is the first time expenditures for patient care have fallen year-over-year since data became available in the 1960s. The largest drop-offs were in outpatient care as people put off elective services or [visits to] doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics shut down. Telehealth visits increased dramatically but did not make up all of the difference.”

dopeweighing-300x200Drug policy and treatment in this country is shifting in notable ways, even as the nation wrangles with a resurgent crisis in opioid abuse and overdose deaths and awaits a political transition that will determine a new response to drug harms.

As an indicator of the changing views on illicit substances, consider that the U.S. House has just approved “sweeping legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions,” the New York Times reported. The newspaper said this of the bill, which for now also faces certain failure:

“The 228-164 vote to approve the measure was bipartisan, and it was the first time either chamber of Congress had ever endorsed the legalization of cannabis. The bill would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act and authorize a 5% tax on marijuana that would fund community and small business grant programs to help those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. The legislation is, for now, almost certainly doomed in the Republican-led Senate, where that party’s leaders have derided it as a superficial distraction from the work of passing coronavirus relief, as lawmakers inched toward bipartisan compromise after spending months locked in an impasse.

britroyals-150x150chrissyandjohn-150x150Two women with significant star power have opened up to the public about a rarely discussed experience — that, even in contemporary times, pregnancies do not all go well and that parents who lose a pre-term child suffer a shattering grief that others should recognize and seek to help them with.

It may be a sad symptom of social media and celebrity itself that controversy and criticism also has greeted the deeply personal disclosures by Chrissy Teigen, a superstar model, chef, and wife of acclaimed entertainer John Legend, and Meghan Markle, aka the Duchess of Sussex, and the American-born actress and biracial wife of Britain’s Prince Harry.

Markle wrote a heart-felt Op-Ed for the New York Times, describing the overpowering sadness she and her husband shared after she miscarried their second child:

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