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The Pandemic’s Death Rate in the U.S.: High Per Capita Income, High Mortality

The United States has among the highest per capita incomes in the world. The U.S. also has sustained among the highest death rates per 100,000 people due to COVID-19, based on epidemiological data from the World Health Organization’s March 28, 2021, update. Higher incomes won’t prevent a person from death-by-coronavirus, but risks for the social determinants of health — exacerbated by income inequality — will and do. I have the good fortune of access to a study group paper shared by Paul Sheard, Research Fellow at the Mossaver-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. In reviewing

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The Ongoing Reality of COVID-19 – My Conversation with Dr. Michael Osterholm at SXSW

“So close and yet so far” feels like the right phrase to use a year after the World Health Organization used the “P-word,” “pandemic,” to describe the coronavirus’s impact on public health, globally. One year and over 550,000 COVID-related deaths in the U.S. later, we face a New Reality that Dr. Michael Osterholm and I are brainstorming today at the 2021 South-by-Southwest Festival. Usually held live and very up-close-and-personally crowded in Austin, Texas, this year we are all virtual — including the film, music, and interactive festivals alike. While I regret to not be in the same room as Dr.

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A BA Degree as Prescription for a Longer Life – Update on Deaths of Despair from Deaton and Case

“Without a four-year college diploma, it is increasingly difficult to build a meaningful and successful life in the United States,” according to an essay in PNAS, Life expectancy in adulthood is falling for those without a BA degree, but as educational gaps have widened, racial gaps have narrowed by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Case and Deaton have done extensive research on the phenomenon of Deaths of Despair, the growing epidemic of mortality among people due to accidents, drug overdoses, and suicide. Case and Deaton wrote the book on Deaths of Despair (detailed here in Health Populi),  Case and Deaton

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How to Restore Americans’ Confidence in U.S. Health Care: Deal With Access and Cost

With a vaccine supply proliferating in the U.S. and more health citizens getting their first jabs, there’s growing optimism in America looking to the next-normal by, perhaps, July 4th holiday weekend as President Biden reads the pandemic tea leaves. But that won’t mean Americans will be ready to return to pre-pandemic health care visits to hospital and doctor’s offices. Now that hygiene protocols are well-established in health care providers’ settings, at least two other major consumer barriers to seeking care must be addressed: cost and access. The latest (March 2021) Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll learned that at least one

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“Hope Springs Eternal” With the COVID Vaccine for Both Joe Biden and Most People in the U.S.

More Americans are happier in March 2021 than they’ve been for a year, based on consumer research from Civic Science polling U.S. adults in early March 2021. For the first time, a larger percent of Americans said they were better off financially since the start of the pandemic. This week, Civic Science shared their latest data on what they’re seeing beyond the coronavirus quarantine era to forecast trends that will shape a post-COVID America. Buoying peoples’ growing optimism was the expectation of the passage of the American Cares Act, which President Biden signed into effect yesterday. The HPA-CS Economic Sentiment Index

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Americans Lost Future Life-Years in 2020: How Much Life Was Lost Depends on the Color of One’s Skin

Some people remark about 2020 being a “lost year” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. That happens to be a true statement, sadly not in jest: in the U.S., life expectancy at birth fell by one full year over the first half of 2020 compared with 2019, to 77.8 years. In 2019, life expectancy at birth was 78.8  years, according to data shared by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Life expectancy at birth declined for both females and males, shown in the first chart. The differences between

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Three in Four People Avoiding Health Care in the Pandemic Have Had Chronic Conditions

By the autumn of 2020, U.S. physicians grew concerned that patients who were avoiding visits to doctor’s offices were missing care for chronic conditions, discussed in in Delayed and Forgone Health Care for Nonelderly Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic from the Urban Institute. More than three-fourths of people who delayed or forewent care had at least one chronic health condition. The pandemic may have led to excess deaths from diabetes, dementia, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, as well as record drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in May 2020. In their JAMA editorial on these data, Dr. Bauchner and

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Can Telemedicine Increase Health Equity? A Conversation with Antoinette Thomas, Dave Ryan, and Me with the ATA

“Yes,” we concurred on our session convened by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) EDGE session today. “We” was a trio including Antoinette Thomas (@NurseTechExec1), Chief Patient Experience Officer with Microsoft, David Ryan (@DavidPRyan), former long-time Global Head of Intel’s Health/Life Science business; and, me. Antoinette posed three questions for all of us to brainstorm, addressing various aspects of health equity. We covered, The theory that telemedicine should increase health equity — where are we and what are the barriers to getting there? The role of social determinants of health in creating equitable opportunities for health citizens; and, Entering a post-pandemic world,

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Addressing Lives and Livelihoods with a Whole-of-Government Approach – The First Wave of Biden Health Policy

President Biden’s first few days on the job gave us a very clear view on how he sees conquering COVID: through a whole-of-government approach to public policies that bolster directly addressing the virus, along with the many forces shaping how we got here and how to come out of the pandemic era stronger. I cover this first wave of Biden health policy in my latest post for the Medecision Liberation blog titled, “Top Priorities for President Biden: COVID-19, Then Everything Else.” The plotline goes… On the day of inauguration, January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden was installed as the 46th

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Primary Care 2.0 – How Crossover Health is “Re-Bundling” Health Care

In 2020, investments in digital health reached $14.1 bn, much of which went into niche applications like lab testing, medication adherence, and on-demand triage for urgent care. These companies targeting primary care components represent the “unbundling of the family doctor,” as CB Insights recently coined the market trend. Fragmentation is a hallmark of the U.S. health care system, or more aptly “non-system” as my old friend J.D. Kleinke noted in his book titled Oxymorons….published in 2001. Twenty years later, we confront primary care as a dichotomy: as unbundled pieces of (we hope) innovation, and in organizations re-imagining a new continuity

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The COVID Healthcare Consumer – 5 Trends Via The Medecision Liberation Blog

The first six months into the coronavirus pandemic shocked the collective system of U.S. consumers for living, learning, laboring, and loving. I absorbed all kinds of data about consumers in the wake of COVID-19 between March and mid-August 2020, culminating in my book, Health Citizenship: How a virus opened hearts and minds, published in September on Kindle and in print in October. In this little primer, I covered the five trends I woven based on all that data-immersion, following up the question I asked at the end of my previous book, HealthConsuming: when and how would Americans claim their health

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The Pandemic Has Been a Shock to Our System – Learning from Known

The coronavirus pandemic has been a shock to people across all aspects of everyday living, for older and younger people, for work and school, for entertainment and travel — all impacting our hearts, minds, and wallets. “As the bedrock of daily life was shaken, uncertainty predictably emerged as the prevailing emotion of our time but this universal problem was eliciting a highly differentiated reaction in different people,” Kern Schireson, CEO of Known, observed. His company has conducted a large quantitative and qualitative research program culminating in a first report, The Human Condition 2020: A Shock To The System. Known’s team of

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Health Citizenship in the America. If Not Now, When?

On February 4th, 2020, in a hospital in northern California, the first known inpatient diagnosed with COVID-19 died. On March 11th, the World Health Organization called the growing prevalence of the coronavirus a “pandemic.” On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis. This summer, the Dixie Chicks dropped the “Dixie” from their name, and NASCAR cancelled the confederate flag from their tracks. Today, nearly 200,000 Americans have died due to the novel coronavirus. My new book, Health Citizenship: How a virus opened hearts and minds, launched this week. In it, I

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The Burden of Depression in the Pandemic – Greater Among People With Fewer Resources

In the U.S., symptoms of depression were three-times greater in April 2020 in the COVID-19 pandemic than in 2017-2018. And rates for depression were even higher among women versus men, along with people earning lower incomes, losing jobs, and having fewer “social resources” — that is, at greater risk of isolation and loneliness. America’s health system should be prepared to deal with a “probable increase” in mental illness after the pandemic, researchers recommend in Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in JAMA Network Open. A multidisciplinary team knowledgeable in medicine, epidemiology, public health,

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How COVID-19 Is Reshaping Cities and Inspiring Healthcare Innovation

The coronavirus pandemic added a new concept to our collective, popular lexicon: “social distancing” and “physical distancing.” This was one pillar for the public health prescription we were given to help mitigate the spread of a very tricky, contagious virus. A major negative impact of our sheltering in place, working from home, and staying indoors has been a sort of clearing out of cities where people congregate for work, for culture, for entertainment, for education, for travel and tourism…for living out our full and interesting lives and livelihoods. Intel gave Harbor Research a mandate to “re-imagine life in a post-pandemic

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The She-Cession – a Financially Toxic Side-Effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Along with the life-threatening impact of the coronavirus on physical health, and the accompanying mental health distress activated by self-distancing comes a third unintended consequence with the pandemic: a hard hit on women’s personal economies. The recession of the pandemic is considered by many economists as a “She-Cession,” a downturn in the economy that’s negatively impacting women more acutely than men. This is markedly different than the Great Recession of 2008, the last major financial crisis: that financial decline was coined a “ManCession,” taking a more significant toll out of more typically men’s jobs like construction and manufacturing where fewer

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Juneteenth 2020: Inequality and Injustice in Health Care in America

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,” Martin Luther King, Jr., asserted at the second meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago on March 25, 1966. This quote has been shortened over the five+ decades since Dr. King told this truth, to the short-hand, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Professor Charlene Galarneau recently enlightened me on Dr. King’s original statement in her seminal essay, “Getting King’s Words Right.” Among

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How COVID-19 Is Driving More Deaths of Despair

In the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel like we are living in desperate times. If you are a person at-risk of dying a Death of Despair, you’re even more at-risk of doing so in the wake of the Coronavirus in America. Demonstrating this sad fact of U.S. life, the Well Being Trust and Robert Graham Center published Projected Deaths of Despair from COVID-19. The analysis quantifies the impact of isolation and loneliness combined with the dramatic economic downturn and mass unemployment with the worsening of mental illness and income inequity on the epidemic of Deaths of

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The COVID19 Consumer: #AloneTogether and More Health Aware

The number of diagnoses of people testing positive with the coronavirus topped 14,000 today in the U.S., Johns Hopkins COVID-19 interactive map told us this morning. As tests have begun to come on stream from California on the west coast to New York state on the east, the U.S. COVID-19 positives will continue to ratchet up for weeks to come, based on the latest perspectives shared by the most-trusted expert in America, Dr. Anthony Fauci. This report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, published March 13, 2020, forecasts a

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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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Income Inequality is Fostering Mis-Trust, the Edelman 2020 Trust Barometer Observes

Economic development has historically built trust among nations’ citizens. But in developed, wealthier parts of the world, like the U.S., “a record number of countries are experiencing an all-time high ‘mass-class’ trust divide,” according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer. For 20 years, Edelman has released its annual Trust Barometer every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, recognizing the importance of trust in the global economy and society. Last year, it was the employer who was the most-trusted touch-point in citizens’ lives the world over, I discussed in Health Populi one year ago. This year, even our employers can’t

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In 2020, PwC Expects Consumers to Grow DIY Healthcare Muscles As Medical Prices Increase

The new year will see a “looming tsunami” of high prices in healthcare, regulation trumping health reform, more business deals reshaping the health/care industry landscape, and patients growing do-it-yourself care muscles, according to Top health industry issues of 2020: Will digital start to show an ROI from the PwC Health Research Institute. I’ve looked forward to reviewing this annual report for the past few years, and always learn something new from PwC’s team of researchers who reach out to experts spanning the industry. In this 14th year of the publication, PwC polled executives from payers, providers, and pharma/life science organizations. Internally,

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How Consumers Look At Social Determinants of Health for Cancer, Diabetes and Mental Health

Enlightened health/care industry and public policy stakeholders have begun to embrace and address social determinants of health. These are the inputs that bolster health beyond health care services: they include economic stability like job security and income level (and equity), education, and access to healthy food, food security, safe neighborhoods, social support, clean environments (water and air), and in my own update on SDoH factors, access to broadband connectivity. As physician leaders in the AMA, technology advocates from AMIA, and numerous health plans focus efforts on strengthening social determinants, what do people – consumers, patients, caregivers — think about these

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Trust in 2019 Via Edelman: The Plotline for Women and Healthcare

Fewer than one-half of consumers trust in government and media. Three-quarters trust employers, who in 2019 are the top-trusted institution according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer released last week in Davos at the World Economic Forum. Consumers in the U.S. over-index for trust in employers, with 80% of people saying they have a strong relationship with “my employer,” compared with 73% of Britons, 66% of the French, and 59% of people in Japan. What’s underneath this is employers being trusted to provide certainty: most workers look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about social issues and

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