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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 Cost of Healthcare Can Drive Medical Rationing and Crowd Out Other Household Spending

One in five people in the U.S. cannot afford to pay for quality health care — an especially acute challenge for Black and Hispanic Americans, according to a West Health-Gallup poll conducted in March 2021, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The cost of healthcare and its potential ramifications continues to serve as a burdensome part of day-to-day life for millions of Americans,” the study summary observed. Furthermore, “These realities can spill over into other health issues, such as delays in diagnoses of new cancer and associated treatments that are due to forgoing needed care,” the researchers expected. The first table

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Housing as Prescription for Health/Care – in Medecision Liberation

COVID-19 ushered in the era of our homes as safe havens for work, shopping, education, fitness-awaking, bread-baking, and health-making. In my latest essay written for Medecision, I weave together new and important data and evidence supporting the basic social determinant of health — shelter, housing, home — and some innovations supporting housing-as-medicine from CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group, AHIP, Brookings Institution, the Urban Land Institute, and other stakeholders learning how housing underpins our health — physical, mental, financial. Read about a wonderful development from Communidad Partners, working with the Veritas Impact Partners group, channeling telehealth to housing programs serving residents with

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How Fruits and Veg Can Make Health and Lower Costs – Calling Chef José Andrés to the White House

Springtime is finally emerging on the east coast of the U.S. and my local CSA farm is on my mind. It’s timely, then, to re-visit a research paper on subsidizing fruits and vegetables from a March 2019 issue of PLOS as an introduction to a new initiative growing out of The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) on produce prescriptions. Timely, too, that Chef José Andrés has been called to President Biden’s White House to help address food security in America. First, let’s look at the research in PLOS: Cost-effectiveness of financial incentives for

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The Patient Safety Issue of Racial Disparities and the Opportunity for “Health Equity By Design”

In 2021, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare are a top patient safety issue, according to ECRI’s annual list of major concerns facing healthcare consumers’ risks to adverse events that can harm them. ECRI has published their annual Top 10 list since 2018, when the list featured diagnostic errors, o behavioral health needs in acute care settings, and patient engagement and health literacy — all of which play into this year’s #1 issue, racial and ethnic disparities in health care. In fact, among the risks in this year’s Top Ten list, eight were accelerated and highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Continued Erosion of Trust in the Age of COVID

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are still in “survival mode,” according to an update of the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, Trust and the Coronavirus in the U.S. Updating the company’s annual Trust Barometer, Edelman conducted a new round of interviews in the U.S. among 2,500 people in early March. [For context, you can read my take on the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer published during the World Economic Forum in January 2021 here in Health Populi].  The first chart shows that two in three people in the U.S. are still in a pandemic mindset, worried about safety and

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Stress in America, One Year into the Pandemic – an APA Update on Parents, Healthcare Workers, and Black Americans

A Year into our collective coronavirus experience, Americans remain stressed, with physical health taking a back seat to our daily grinds based on the 2021 Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA has been updating us on U.S.-stress for several years, and more frequently since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020. In their latest report, APA updates their previous profiles of Americans’ stress looking into different demographic groups and coping mechanisms. The topline, across all adults living in America, is that one-half have delayed or cancelled health care services. One-half has

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How Young People Are Using Digital Tools to Help Deal with Mental Health

After a year of living with and “in” the coronavirus pandemic, younger people in the U.S. have had to deal with over twelve months of quarantine and lockdown, going to school remotely from home, and distancing from friends. For most young people, the public health crisis has been more about that social distancing from friends, a collective sense of isolation, and mental and behavioral health impacts. These dynamics and these young health citizens’ coping mechanisms are captured in the report, Coping with COVID-19: How Young People Use Digital Media to Manage Their Mental Health. Three organizations collaborated to conduct and

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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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The Most Relevant Companies in Health Care – Learning from the W2O Group

Five years ago, in 2016, the W2O Group said that, “Relevance is reputation.” That year the firm began to study the relevance of, well, relevance for organizations especially operating in the health/care ecosystem. 2020 changed everything, the W2O team asserts, now issuing its latest look into the issue through the Relevance Quotient. Relevance is built on recognizing, meeting and exceeding stakeholder expectations of organizations. In the Relevance Quotient methodology, W2O Group defines key stakeholders as employees, patients (including the sick and the well, caregivers, consumers, et al), health care providers, advocacy groups, analysts and investors, policy makers, journalists and media outlets.

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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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The Social Determinants of Prescription Drugs – A View From CoverMyMeds

The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to define what were basic or essential needs to them; for most people, those items have been hygiene products, food, and connectivity to the Internet. There’s another good that’s essential to people who are patients: prescription drugs. A new report from CoverMyMeds details the current state of medication access weaving together key health care industry and consumer data. The reality even before the coronavirus crisis emerged in early 2020 was that U.S. patients were already making painful trade-offs, some of which are illustrated in the first chart from the report. These include self-rationing prescription drug

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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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Most Americans Want a Vaccine, Dissatisfied with the Rollout

Seven in 10 U.S. adults are willing to be vaccinated, and they’re not happy about the process in getting their jab, according to Gallup’s poll taken in the last week of January 2021. The proportion of Americans willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine has steadily grown since October 2020, which fell to a mere 50% of folks keen to get the shot. That percentage has risen to 71% as of February 1 2021, as the first line chart shows the reversal in public embrace for vaccination against the coronavirus. Now that most people in the U.S. welcome the opportunity to

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Ten In Ten: Manatt’s Healthcare Priorities to 2031

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed major weaknesses in the U.S. health care system, especially laying bare inequities and inertia in American health care, explained in The Progress We Need: Ten Health Care Imperatives for the Decade Ahead from Manatt Health. The report details the ten objectives that are central to Manatt’s health care practice, a sort of team manifesto call-to-action and North Star for the next decade. Their ten must-do’s for bending the cost curve while driving constructive change for a better health care system are to: Ensure access Achieve health equity Stability the safety net and rebuild public health

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Americans A Year Into the Pandemic – A View from Pew

Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the same percent of Americans say strengthening the U.S. economy and dealing with the coronavirus outbreak should be a top priority for President Biden and Congress to address this year, according to data from the Pew Research Center collected during the second week of January 2021. Two-thirds of people in the U.S. also want government leaders to prioritize improving the employment situation, defending against terrorism, and improving the political system, the study learned. At Americans’ low end of the priority list for the President and Congress are dealing with global trade, improving transportation,

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Food Trends and Hunger in the Pandemic – the Importance of Food Security in Health and Economic Security

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all kinds of aspects of our daily lives, not the least of which were our food habits — how we shopped for food, how we bought food, how we cooked and baked from scratch, and how our tastes and nutritional choices changed with our #StayHome and #WorkFromHome lifestyles. People who could keep their jobs and work from home connected by broadband learned how to build up pandemic pantries, shop online, and stay well-fed. But for people in the U.S. who lost employment, had hours cut, or were compelled to stay home to teach kids

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The Biden Administration’s Whole-of-Government Approach to Equity – in Health and Beyond

In the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed disparities in housing, food, and job security, and the role that one’s ZIP code and social determinants play in health outcomes. Overall, America has done poorly in light of being 4% of the world’s population but having one-fifth of the planet’s deaths due to the coronavirus. But these have disproportionately hit non-white people, who are nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans. I’ve been head-down reviewing the first two days of President Biden’s signing Executive Orders, reading the National Strategy for COVID-19 Response, and inventorying line items

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The Digital Consumer, Increasingly Connected to Health Devices; Parks Associates Kicking Off #CES2021

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove U.S. consumers to increase spending on electronics, notably laptops, smartphones, and desktop computers. But the coronavirus era also saw broadband households spending more on connecting health devices, with 42% of U.S. consumers owning digital health tech compared with 33% in 2015, according to research discussed in Supporting Today’s Connected Consumer from Parks Associates. developed for Sutherland, the digital transformation company. Consumer electronics purchase growth was, “likely driven by new social distancing guidelines brought on by COVID-19, which requires many individuals to work and attend school from home. Among the 26% of US broadband households

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“The virus is the boss” — U.S. lives and livelihoods at the beginning of 2021

“The virus is the boss,” Austan Goolsbee, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, told Stephanie Ruhle this morning on MSNBC. Goolsbee and Jason Furman, former Chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tag-teamed the U.S. economic outlook following today’s news that the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs — the greatest job loss since April 2020 in the second month of the pandemic. The 2020-21 economic recession is the first time in U.S. history that a downturn had nothing to do with the economy per se. As Uwe Reinhardt, health economist guru, is whispering in my

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The 2021 Health Populi TrendCast – Health Care, Self-Care, and the Rebirth of Love in Public Health

In numerology, the symbolic meaning behind the number “21” is death and re-birth. In tarot cards, 21 is a promise of fulfillment, triumph, and victory. How apropos that feels right now as we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and turn the page for a kinder, gentler, healthier New Year. It would be sinful to enter a New Year as challenging as 2021 promises to be without taking the many lessons of our 2020 pandemic life and pain into account. For health care in America, it is a time to re-build and re-imagine a better, more equitable landscape for

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Vaccine Hesitancy Is Greatest Among Those at Highest Risk of Dying from COVID-19: Black People

While 85% of people are open to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, over one-half of them would want to wait some time to observe if after-effects developed in people who took the jab, according to a new study from Acxiom, the data analytics-marketing company. Not all people are as enthused about getting a coronavirus vaccine at all, Acxiom discovered: in fact, those hardest hit by the virus — Black people — would be the least-likely to want to get a COVID-19 vaccine, discussed in in Vaccine Hesitancy in the U.S., a survey the company conducted among 10,000 people in the U.S.

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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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Rebuilding Resilience, Trust, and Health – Deloitte’s Latest on Health Care and Sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated health care providers’ and plans’ investment in digital technologies while reducing capital spending on new physical assets, we learn in Building resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. What must be built (or truly re-built), health care leaders believe, is first and foremost trust, followed by financial viability to ensure long-term resilience and sustainability — for the workforce, the organization, the community, and leaders themselves. For this report, Deloitte interviewed 60 health care chief financial officers to gauge their perspectives during the pandemic looking at the future of

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Will We See A Field of Dreams for the COVID-19 Vaccine in the U.S.?

“If you build it, he will come,” the voice of James Earl Jones echoes in our minds when we recall the plotline of the film, Field of Dreams. A quick summary if you don’t know the movie: the “it” was a baseball field to be built in a rural cornfield. The “he” was a baseball player, ultimately joined by a dream-team of ball players who would convene on that dreamy field to play an amazing game. Today, the day after Pfizer announced a 90% benefit for its coronavirus vaccine, bolstering Wall Street returns on 9th November 2020, two new consumer

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Voting for Health in 2020

In the 2018 mid-term elections, U.S. voters were driven to polls with health care on their minds. The key issues for health care voters were costs (for care and prescription drugs) and access (read: protecting pre-existing conditions and expanding Medicaid). Issue #2 for 2018 voters was the economy. In 2020, as voting commences in-person tomorrow on 3rd November, U.S. voters have lives and livelihoods on their minds. It’s the pandemic – our physical lives looming largest in the polls – coupled with our fiscal and financial lives. Health is translating across all definitions for U.S. voters in November 2020: for

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Women’s Health Policy Advice for the Next Occupant of the White House: Deal With Mental Health, the Pandemic, and Health Care Costs

2020 marked the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. In this auspicious year for women’s voting rights, as COVID-19 emerged in the U.S. in February, women’s labor force participation rate was 58%. Ironic timing indeed: the coronavirus pandemic has been especially harmful to working women’s lives, the Brookings Institution asserted last week in their report in 19A: The Brookings Gender Equality Series. A new study from Tia, the women’s health services platform, looks deeply into COVID-19’s negative impacts on working-age women and how they would advise the next occupant of

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Black Health Should Matter More in America: The Undefeated Survey on Race and Health

In 2020, most Black people, men and women alike, feel it is a bad time to be Black in America. More than twice as many Black men believed that in 2020 compared with 2006. More than four times as many Black women believed that it’s a bad time to be Black in America in 2020 versus 2011, we learn in  The Undefeated Survey on Race and Health from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). KFF collaborated with The Undefeated, ESPN’s project that focuses on sports, race, and culture. The Undefeated program was started in May 2016, and has become a thought leader

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Our Home Is Our Health Hub: CTA and CHI Align to Address Digital and Health Equity

In the pandemic, I’ve been weaving together data to better understand how people as consumers are being re-shaped in daily life across their Maslow Hierarchies of Needs. One of those basic needs has been digital connectivity. People of color have faced many disparities in the wake of the pandemic: the virus itself, exacting greater rates of mortality and morbidity being the most obvious, dramatic inequity. Another has been digital inequity. Black people have had a more difficult time paying for phone and Internet connections during the COVID-19 crisis, we learned in a Morning Consult poll fielded in June 2020. In

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Redefining PPE As Primary Care, Public Health, and Health Equity – The Community PPE Index

In May 2020, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) re-visited the acronym, “PPE.” As OED evolves the definition of PPE, the wordsmiths could borrow from OSHA’s website, noting that PPE, “is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.” Perhaps Definition 3 in the OED could be updated by a blog

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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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Only in America: The Loss of Health Insurance as a Toxic Financial Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In terms of income, U.S. households entered 2020 in the best financial shape they’d been in years, based on new Census data released earlier this week. However, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the level of health insurance enrollment fell by 1 million people in 2019, with about 30 million Americans not covered by health insurance. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2 million people in 2018, and by 1.9 million people in 2017. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the erosion of the health insured population. What havoc a pandemic can do to minds, bodies, souls, and wallets. By September 2020,

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Americans Worry About Medical Bankruptcy, As Prescription Drug Costs Play Into Voters’ Concerns

One in two people in the U.S. are concerned that a major health event in their family would lead to bankruptcy, up 5 percent points over the past eighteen months. In a poll conducted with West Health, Gallup found that more younger people are concerned about medical debt risks, along with more non-white adults, published in their study report, 50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event. The survey was fielded in July 2020 among 1,007 U.S. adults 18 and older. One of the basic questions in studies like these is whether a consumer could cover a $500

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Behavioral Health Side-Effects in the COVID Era

“This surge of people experiencing acute behavioral health problems…has the potential to further impact the healthcare system for years to come,” a report from McKinsey expects looking at the hidden costs of COVID-19’s impact on U.S. health care. The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on Americans’ mental health, with anxiety and depression growing as a side-effect to worries about the virus itself, the long Great Lockdown in much of the country, and the economic recession that has particularly impacted women and people of color. I covered depression impacts due to COVID-19 here in Health Populi yesterday, and wanted to

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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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