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The Racial Divide Due to COVID-19 Also Applies to Healthcare and Pharma Costs

Into the sixth month of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., it’s clear that COVID-19 has wreaked a greater mortality and morbidity impact on people of color than on white adults. A new Gallup-West Health poll found that the coronavirus also concerns more non-white Americans than whites when it comes to the cost of health care and medicines to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Considering the cost of COVID-19 treatment, across all U.S. adults, 40% of people are concerned (extremely/concerned), and 41% are “not at all concerned.” Broken down by race, there is a stark difference in levels of

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The Unsurprising Surprise of Social Determinants in COVID-19 Mortality

“Covid-19 exposes America’s racial health gap,” asserts The Economist, the weekly news magazine based in London, UK, in an advanced essay dated 11 April 2020. The subtitle of the piece: “African-Americans appear more vulnerable to the virus.” The phrase, “your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code” has become the common mantra for public health people communicating the concept of the social determinants of health: those factors outside of medical services that shape peoples’ overall health and well-being. Two days ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published data that showed African-Americans were dying from complications of the

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West Virginia Was the Last State to ID a COVID-19 Positive Patient; The States’ Residents Are At Highest Risk for Severe Reaction to C19

Gallup has estimated 11 Million in U.S. at Severe Risk If Infected With COVID-19 in research published today. And the health citizens of West Virginia would be at greatest risk for having a severe reaction to the coronavirus. A “severe reaction” here means being critically ill or dying. The forecast doesn’t focus on the whole number of people in the US. who would be at-risk of contracting the coronavirus; the 11 million is the total number of Americans who have a “very high chance of becoming critically ill or dying” if 100% of the country were infected with C19. This

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The Suicide Rate in America Increased by 40% between 2000 and 2017. Blue Collar Workers Were Much More At Risk.

The rate of suicide in the U.S. rose from 12.9 per 100,000 population to 18.0 between 2000 and 2017, a 40% increase. Those workers most at-risk for suiciding were men working in construction and mining, maintenance, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, farming and fishing, and transportation. For women, working in construction and mining, protective service, transportation, healthcare (support and practice), the arts and entertainment, and personal care put them at higher risk of suicide. The latest report from the CDC on Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation provides a current analysis of the National Violent Death Reporting System which collects data from 32 states,

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The 2020 Social Determinants of Health: Connectivity, Art, Air and Love

Across the U.S., the health/care ecosystem warmly embraced social determinants of health as a concept in 2019. A few of the mainstreaming-of-SDoH signposts in 2019 were: Cigna studying and focusing in on loneliness as a health and wellness risk factor Humana’s Bold Goal initiative targeting Medicare Advantage enrollees CVS building out an SDOH platform, collaborating with Unite US for the effort UPMC launching a social impact program focusing on SDoH, among other projects investing in social factors that bolster public health. As I pointed out in my 2020 Health Populi trendcast, the private sector is taking on more public health

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Longevity Stalls Around the World And Wealth, More Concentrated

Two separate and new OECD reports, updating health and the global economic outlook, raise two issues that are inter-related: that gains in longevity are stalling, with chronic illnesses and mental ill health affecting more people; and, as wealth grows more concentrated among the wealthy, the economic outlook around most of the world is also slowing. First, we’ll mine the Health at a Glance 2019 annual report covering data on population health, health system performance, and medical spending across OECD countries. The first chart arrays the x-y data points of life expectancy versus health spending for each of the OECD countries

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Social Determinants of Health – My Early Childhood Education and Recent Learnings, Shared at the HealthXL Global Gathering

My cousin Arlene got married in Detroit at the classic Book Cadillac Hotel on July 23, 1967, a Sunday afternoon wedding. When Daddy drove us back out to our suburban home about 30 minutes from the fancy hotel, the car radio was tuned to WWJ Newsradio 950, all news all the time. As soon as Daddy switched on the radio, we were shocked by the news of a riot breaking out in the city, fires and looting and gunshots and chaos in the Motor City. Two days later, my father, who did business with Mom-and-Pop retail store owners in the

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Art As Medicine – WHO Weaves the Evidence for Arts’ Role in Improving Health

“What’s the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?” asks a report from the World Health Organization‘s Europe region team (WHO-Europe). There’s a lot of proof supporting arts-as-medicine, WHO details in this paper, which synthesizes research published in over 3,000 studies. The first chart illustrates the logic model that bridges arts to health in three segments: “Components” of arts programs, including but not limited to cognitive stimulation (e.g., learning a new arts skill such as painting, drawing or journaling), social interaction (e.g., participating in theatre), physical activity (e.g., dance), and evocation of emotion (e.g., listening

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A Tale of Two Americas as Told by the 2019 OECD Report on Health

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, … starts Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  That’s what came to my mind when reading the latest global health report from the OECD, Health at a Glance 2019, which compares the United States to other nations’ health care outcomes, risk factors, access metrics, and spending. Some trends are consistent across the wealthiest countries of the world, many sobering, such as: Life expectancy rates fell in 19 of the

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Making Health Care Better, from the N of 1 to the Public’s Health – Trend-Weaving Medecision Liberation 2019

Health and our health information are deeply personal. Changing health care and inspiring positive health behaviors is hard to do. But we must and we will, a group of inspiring and inspired people who work across the health/care ecosystem affirmed this week in Dallas at the conference of Medecision Liberation 2019. I was engaged at this conference to wear several hats — as a keynote speaker, a sort of “emcee,” and, finally, to trend-weave the many talks and discussions happening throughout the meeting. This post is my synthesis of the summary I delivered live at the end of the conference,

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The Number of Unintended Deaths From Car Accidents, Falls and Overdoses in America Grew 40% Between 1999 and 2017

The rate of deaths due to unintentional injuries in the U.S. grew by 40% between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Three mortality line items make up this overall statistic: Deaths from motor vehicle traffic injuries Deaths from unintentional drug overdoses (that is, not including suicides which are defined as “intentional”), and Deaths due to unintentional falls. The line graph illustrates the macro trend on the top-line, with the three specific causes underneath. You see deaths due to falls, motor vehicle accidents, and drug overdoses increased over the eighteen years. Drug overdose death rates began

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Gaps in Health Equity in America Are Growing

There’s been a “clear lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the United States,” asserts a data-rich analysis of trends conducted by two professors/researchers from UCLA’s School of Public Health. The study was published this week in JAMA Network Open. The research mashed up several measures of health equity covering the 25 years from 1993 through 2017. The data came out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System looking at trends by race/ethnicity, sex and income across three categories for U.S. adults between 18 and 64 years of age.

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Health Care and the Democratic Debates – Round 2 – Battle Royale for M4All vs Medicare for All Who Want It – What It Means for Industry

Looking at this photo of the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential candidate debater line-up might give you a déjà vu feeling, a repeat of the night-before debate. But this was Round 2 of the debate, with ten more White House aspirants sharing views — sometimes sparring — on issues of immigration, economic justice, climate change, and once again health care playing a starring role from the start of the two-hour event. The line-up from left to write included: Marianne Williamson. author and spiritual advisor John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado Andrew Yang. tech company executive Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend,

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Will Health Consumers Morph Into Health Citizens? HealthConsuming Explains, Part 5

The last chapter (8) of HealthConsuming considers whether Americans can become “health citizens.” “Citizens” in this sense goes back to the Ancient Greeks: I return to Hippocrates, whose name is, of course, the root of The Hippocratic Oath that physicians take. Greece was the birthplace of Democracy with a capital “D.” Hippocrates’ book The Corpus is thought to be one of the first medical textbooks. The text covered social, physical, and nutritional influences, and the concept of “place” for health and well-being. Here, the discussion detailed the roles of air and water for health. The Hippocratic texts also coached doctors to

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What We Know We Know About ZIP Codes, Food, and Deaths of Despair – HealthConsuming Explains, Part 3

“There’s a 15-year difference in the life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans.” That’s the first sentence of Chapter 7 in my book, HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen. This data point comes from research published in JAMA in April 2016 on the association between income and life expectancy in the U.S. (That’s endnote #399 in the back of the book, one of 519 notes I use to support the plotline). Today, the Brookings Institution convened a meeting on the funding for social determinants of health to address disparities, costs, and quality of healthcare in America. The overall

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World Health Day 2019: Let’s Celebrate Food, Climate, Insurance Coverage and Connectivity

Today, 7 April, is World Health Day. With that in mind, I devote this post to three key social determinants of health (SDOH) that are top-of-mind for me these days: food for health, climate change, and universal health coverage. UHC happens to be WHO’s focus for World Health Day 2019. [As a bonus, I’ll add in a fourth SDOH in the Hot Points for good measure and health-making]. Why a World Health Day? you may be asking. WHO says it’s, “a chance to celebrate health and remind world leaders that everyone should be able to access the health care they need,

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The Ultimate Health Outcome, Mortality, Is Rising in America

How long can people living in the U.S. expect to live? 78.6 years of age, if you were born in 2017. That’s a decline of 0.1 year from 2016. This decline especially impacted baby boys: their life expectancy fell to 76.1 years, while baby girls’ life expectancy stayed even at 81.1 years. That’s the latest data on Mortality in the United States, 2017, soberly brought to you by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Underneath these stark numbers are the specific causes of death: in 2017, more Americans died

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Be Thankful by Engaging With Grace and Talking About Your End-of-Life Wishes With Loved Ones

“Thanksgiving.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word, first, as “the act of giving thanks.” Second, it’s “a prayer of expressing gratitude.” And, third, the word means a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness. We each have our own stories about how a loved one’s life has ended. If we’re lucky, that beloved person had a good death: in sleep, perhaps, or simply of old age with no hospital events or trauma. Then there are the Rest-of-Us who share family stories and experience of long and painful endings, in institutional settings often coupled with costly, so-called “heroic” but unwanted, futile care. When

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Obese, Access-Challenged and Self-Rationing: America’s Health Vs Rest-of-World

          The U.S. gets relatively low ROI for its relatively exorbitant spending on healthcare, noted once again in the latest Health at a Glance, the annual OECD report on member nations’ healthcare systems. The report includes U.S. country data asking, “How does the United States compare?” with its sister OECD countries. The answer is, “not well across most population health, access, and mortality measures.” For the Cliff’s Notes/Where’s Waldo top-line of the research, find the two long bars in this chart heading “south” of the OECD average, and one long blue bar going “north.” The northern climbing bar

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Thinking About Kate and Anthony – Suicide and Depression Is US

Yesterday at 1 pm, we learned that the incidence of suicide is up in America in a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This morning, we awake to news that Anthony Bourdain, the witty and prolific travel and food expert, took his own life. Earlier this week, Kate Spade, fashion designer and creative force, took her own life. The loss of these two bright lights, gone from our lives to suicide within a few days of each other, gives me the sad compulsion to say something, again, about

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The U.S. is a Nation in Pain – America’s Life Expectancy Fell Again in 2016

American saw the greatest number of deaths from suicide and alcohol- and drug-induced fatalities was recorded in 2016. That statistic of nearly 142,000 equates to deaths from stroke and exceed the number of deaths among Americans who died in all U.S. wars since 1950, according to Pain in the Nation Update from the Well Being Trust and Trust for America’s Health. The line graph soberly illustrates the growing tragic public health epidemic of mortality due to preventable causes, those deaths of despair as Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton have observed in their research into this uniquely all-American phenomenon. While this

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A Tale of Two America’s for Health

  Disparities in Americans’ health vary among people living in each of the 50 states. These differences in health status generally fall into two regions: north and south, found in the Commonwealth Fund’s 2018 Scorecard on State Health System Performance. The map shows this stark geography-is-health-destiny reality: the worse-than-average states, the Fund found, run from Nevada southeast to Arizona, through New Mexico and Texas all the way to Atlantic Ocean and the Carolinas, then north west all the way up through the industrial Midwest states through Michigan to the north. Wyoming is the only non-contiguous state in the worse-performing U.S. state

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Engage With Grace and Your Family on Thanksgiving: Have an End-Of-Life Chat at the End-Of-the-Feast

“Thanksgiving.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word, first, as “the act of giving thanks.” Second, it’s “a prayer of expressing gratitude.” And, third, the word means a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness. We each have our stories about how a loved one’s life has ended. If we’re lucky, that beloved person had a good death: in sleep, perhaps, or simply of old age with no hospital events or trauma. Then there are the Rest-of-Us who share family stories and experience of long and painful endings, in institutional settings often coupled with costly, so-called “heroic” bit unwanted, futile care. When you’re

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U.S. Healthcare Spending & Outcomes in Five Charts: #EpicFail in the 2017 OECD Statistics

“Spend more. Get less.” If a retailer advertised using these four words, how many consumers would buy that product or service? This is the American reality of healthcare spending in 2016, told in the OECD report, Health at a Glance 2017. I present five charts from the study in this post, which together take the current snapshot health-economic lesson for the U.S. First, look at health expenditures as a share of gross domestic product: the U.S. is number one above Switzerland, France, and the UK, and about two times the OECD average. Note, too, the proportion of out-of-pocket and so-called

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Income Inequality For Older Americans Among Highest in the World – What This Means for Healthcare

Old-age inequality among current retirees in the U.S. is already greater than in ever OECD country except Chile and Mexico, revealed in Preventing Ageing Unequally from the OECD. Key findings from the report are that: Inequalities in education, health, employment and income start building up from early ages At all ages, people in bad health work less and earn less. Over a career, bad health reduces lifetime earnings of low-educated men by 33%, while the loss is only 17% for highly-educated men Gender inequality in old age, however, is likely to remain substantial: annual pension payments to the over-65s today are

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How We Live and Die in 2017: Obesity, Conflict and Mental Illness

Obesity, conflict, and mental illness contribute most to the ill health and mortality of the world’s population – especially in the U.S., according to the annual Global Burden of Disease study published this month in The Lancet and funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There’s good news and bad news in this research: on the upside, people are living longer. On the downside, there’s a lot of morbidity – that is, sub-optimal health – in those years. The study examines both YLLs (years of life lost) and YLDs (years lived with disability). “Death is a powerful motivator, both

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Talk #EndOfLife at the End of the Thanksgiving Meal: Engage With Grace

“Thanksgiving.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word, first, as “the act of giving thanks.” Second, it’s “a prayer of expressing gratitude.” And, third, the word means a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness. We each have our stories about how a loved one’s life has ended. If we’re lucky, that beloved person had a good death: in sleep, perhaps, or simply of old age with no hospital events or trauma. Then there are the Rest-of-Us who have the stories of long and painful endings, in institutional settings and costly, futile care. When you’re already in the situation of making tough health

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Color Me Well – Coloring Books As Rx for Wellness

Coloring books are best sellers in bookstores, craft merchandisers, newspaper stands, and on Amazon. Now, they’re joining the health and wellness world. The market growth of coloring books has been recognized in national media like the Washington Post, who called the phenomenon, “a bright spot in the financial results of publishers and retailers alike.” Nielsen Bookscan estimated that 12 million were sold in 2015, up from 1 million in 2014. Publishers Weekly covered the craze in November 2015. A Forbes column said, “The adult coloring craze continues and there is no end in sight.” Some of the mental health benefits

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Palliative Care: Getting End of Life Care (W)right

I lost a best friend last week. His memorial service, held this past weekend, was a celebration of his life. And part of that well-lived life was a very conscious planning of his last days. The Economist published its 2015 Quality of Death Index, a data-driven treatise on palliative care, the very week my dear friend Rick died. This gives me the opportunity to discuss palliative care issues with Health Populi readers through The Economist’s lens, and then in the Hot Points below through my personal context of this remarkable man’s end-of-life choices. The Economist ranks 80 countries on several

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Doctors who write right: Gawande, Topol and Wachter put people at the center of health/care

There’s a trifecta of books written by three brilliant doctors that, together, provide a roadmap for the 21st century continuum of health care: The Patient Will See You Now by Eric Topol, MD; The Digital Doctor from Robert Wachter, MD; and, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. Each book’s take provides a lens, through the eyes of a hands-on healthcare provider, on healthcare delivery today (the good, the warts and all) and solutions based on their unique points-of-view. This triple-review will move, purposefully, from the digitally, technology optimistic “Gutenberg moment” for democratizing medicine per Dr. Topol, to the end-game importance of

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Learning from Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy about living long and prospering

“Live long and prosper,” Mr. Spock repeated, like a mantra, throughout his life. We say goodbye, on this dimension anyway, to Leonard Nimoy, who passed away today at the age of 83. Star Trek is a staple entertainment — perhaps even a relaxation therapy — in my home. So Mr. Nimoy’s departure from the Planet is indeed a sad event here. In thinking about Spock’s mantra about living well, I am reminded of an interchange between him and Captain Kirk in the Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. In that film, Spock is severely irradiated while saving the ship, and

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Be thankful for your good life. Now think about what a good death would be.

This Thanksgiving, we’re once again participating in the annual Engage With Grace blog rally, encouraging those who haven’t considered their end-of-life preferences to start thinking about them, and asking those who have done it to consider how their decisions may have changed over time. It’s good food for thought. Wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday season.  Most of us find ourselves pretty fascinating… flipping through photos and slowing down for the ones where we’re included, tweeting our favorite tidbits of information, Facebook-ing progress on this or that… We find other people captivating as well.  In fact, there’s a meme going around

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