Under the Trump administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has relaxed or delayed Obama-era standards that would have protected workers from exposure to respiratory hazards like beryllium and silica. The New York Times reports that “the process of enacting a new OSHA standard is often a long and arduous one, regardless of which party holds power. And companies or others frequently sue the agency, contending that it failed to follow procedures when drafting a rule or is imposing costs on employers that will yield little worker benefit… In moving to eliminate the Chemical Safety Board, with an annual budget of about $11 million, the Trump administration’s budget proposal said the board was “largely duplicative” of efforts by other agencies, though the budget documents did not elaborate.”
A literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the links between political events; hostility, racial prejudice, and acts of discrimination and harassment; and health effects from anxiety and stress to premature death and increased risk of disease. In an interview with Vox, lead author David Williams said, “There is a steady drumbeat of incidents of hostility in the news, so there is a pressing need to make health care providers aware of the health consequences.” Williams also cited, as evidence of a rise in hostility in society following the 2016 elections, a recent survey of 2,000 K-12 teachers: “Half of these teachers were saying their students were emboldened to use slurs and say hostile things about minorities, immigrants, and Muslims [during the 2016 election]. Two-thirds of the teachers reported that some of their students were worried about and living in the fear of what might happen to them or their families after the election.” Albert Samaha, Mike Hayes and Talal Ansari of BuzzFeed News reviewed more than 50 reports of school bullying since the election for their piece, The Kids are Alt-Right (18,000+ shares), and found that kids nationwide are using Trump’s words to taunt their classmates—and teachers don’t know what to do about it. Mat Honan calls it an “eye-opening story on what's happening at schools in the Trump era.” While Megan Hess says, “Reading this story, on school bullies quoting Trump, felt like a punch to the gut,” Tom Power says it's “Appalling and really worth reading.” A statement by the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center this week raised the alarm about “fraying social norms” in the face of rising hate, warning of “an America where the social norms that stitch our society together – the unwritten rules of common decency and civilized behavior that have been built up over generations – are unraveling before our very eyes. Trump’s racially charged, xenophobic campaign, coupled with his attacks on so-called political correctness, not only energized the white supremacist movement but gave people a license to act on their worst instincts – their anger, their prejudices, their resentments.”
Senate Republicans are reportedly honing in on a bill to repeal the ACA that would continue the cost-sharing subsidies insurance companies receive under the ACA in order to reduce deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers, the New York Times reports. Right now, it appears that Republicans will push for a vote before the July 4 recess.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Institute for Women’s Policy research co-produced a new report that catalogues the inequities black women in the US face across almost every arena of life, from full access to political participation to low-wage employment, access to paid leave, family caregiving responsibilities, poverty, imprisonment, housing discrimination and eviction, maternal mortality, health, and safety.
The city of Philadelphia has launched a public awareness campaign targeting young people of color, “Break the Cycle,” which draws attention to the tobacco industry’s racial profiling of customers. “In Philadelphia, 75 percent of tobacco retailers are in low-income neighborhoods. A 2013 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that the poorer a neighborhood was, the more tobacco retailers it had; and stores that accepted food stamps were significantly more likely to have ads for tobacco and soda products. “This is nothing short of a chemical assault," said Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad at an event unveiling the city's campaign. “We have to go to war with these companies. They fight for profits. We’re fighting for lives.”” Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Tom Farley also commented on the links between Big Tobacco and Big Soda when it comes to focusing on consumers of color and building relationships with communities of color to better market their health-harming products. When asked about the role of the soda industry in lobbying Latino lawmakers in California to oppose sugary drink regulations, Farley considered that ‘part of the bigger pattern… of unhealthy product makers trying to assert dominance in minority communities. “They can make it look like there’s community resistance to regulation,” says Farley.’
The Seattle City Council approved a soda tax – with revenues to fund healthy food access and public education campaigns -- this week.
The New York Times explores why African-American men who identify as gay or bisexual have among the highest HIV rates in the world. The Times identifies key missed opportunities to stem the spread of HIV in this community, including the federal government’s focus on funding abstinence-only education, as opposed to sex education that would inform and empower sexually active people regardless of sexual orientation, the exclusion of LGBTQ issues, poverty, and inadequate healthcare infrastructure. In the Southern states and metropolitan areas hardest hit by HIV, these issues were magnified. “During this time [1990s through George W. Bush administration], many scientists, researchers and government administrators were afraid to speak openly about condoms, needle exchange and L.G.B.T. issues for fear of reprisal and loss of funding. Community organizations became targets of anti-gay crusades, subjected to intense scrutiny, including exhaustive audits, by federal agencies. “It is no coincidence that new rates of H.I.V. infection among gay men, especially gay black men, began to spike sharply from 2000 on, because of an anti-science campaign that allowed for little or nothing to be done for a maligned community simply due to ideology and bigotry,” Millett said. “The hostile environment made funding effective H.I.V.-prevention programs, messages or research impossible for U.S. communities most impacted by H.I.V.”’
A new report from Stanford University examined police body camera audio from the Oakland Police Department and found that, during routine traffic stops, police officers speak with black drivers much less respectfully and more rudely than with white drivers.
A Health Affairs study, part of a theme issue on health equity, found that the gap in self-reported health status between the rich and the poor in the US is among the world’s widest (of 32 countries studied, only Chile and Portugal had wider inequities in health status). The Washington Post’s WonkBlog summarized the study’s findings: “Of people in households making less than $22,500 a year, 38 percent reported being in poor or fair health in a survey taken between 2011 and 2013. That's more than three times the rate of health troubles faced by individuals in households making more than $47,700 a year, where only 12 percent of people reported being in poor to fair health.”
Modern Healthcare reports on a new study published in Health Affairs that found a link between better healthcare access and affordable, stable housing. The study found 31% of adults ages 18 to 64 who received housing assistance were uninsured compared to 37% of eligible adults who were not receiving assistance between 2004 and 2012, but ended up receiving assistance over the next two years. Forty percent of current recipients delayed medical care due to cost compared with 48% of future recipients, the study also found.
CNBC reported on another study in Health Affairs that found people of color are more likely to receive high-cost, low-value healthcare. Specifically, Blacks and Hispanics receive fewer services that have been shown to be effective, like cancer screenings and diabetes monitoring.
Michael Bloomberg appeared on NPR this week with Dr. Kelly Henning, who is in charge of public health at Bloomberg Philanthropies, to talk about President Trump’s plan to cut global health spending. When asked about the proposed budget’s plan to cut more than $222 million for chronic disease prevention and health promotion, Dr. Henning said, “We really believe in prevention. We don't think it's possible to treat our way out of non-communicable disease problem that we're facing in the U.S. as well as around the world. So things like educating the public about the dangers of tobacco, the dangers of sugary beverages and empty calories associated with those, and other things that we do in the area of injury prevention like road safety and drowning prevention. They're very commonsense things that can be done. They're not enormously expensive. But they're certainly needed in the U.S. and around the world.”
Mother Jones reports on the California detention center where three immigrants have died over the past three months. “Since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions. In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of "egregious errors" by the center's medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms. Yet last year, the city of Adelanto, acting as a middleman between ICE and GEO, made a deal to extend the company's contract until 2021. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $111 per detainee per day, according to California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who has fought to curtail private immigration detention. After that point, ICE only has to pay $50 per detainee per day—an incentive to fill more beds.” Mother Jones concludes the article by noting that “Nine people have died in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, which began October 1. Meanwhile, private prison stocks have nearly doubled in value since Election Day.”
The struggles facing firefighters who responded to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that killed three dozen people are prompting efforts to address long held stigmas that have discouraged firefighters from seeking mental health support, Leah Rosenbaum reports in STAT.
The New York Times looks at advertising campaigns that are embracing expanding ideas of masculinity, from taking an active role in parenting to being bad at sports.
Vox and NPR note that a bill in the works in the senate that proposes harsher penalties for selling synthetic opioids represents a return to problematic drug policies of the past, namely, filling prisons with low-level drug offenders. Research has shown that the stiffer penalties do not deter drug selling and may drain resources from more effective approaches, such as addiction treatment and prevention. In the case of synthetic opioids, dealers may not even be aware that the heroin they’re selling has been cut with a more powerful and dangerous synthetic.
The rising toll of drug overdoses is compelling a growing number of communities to generate cross-sector approaches to address substance misuse and related problems. In Dane County, Wisconsin, providers are shifting prescribing practices; “recovery coaches” are working with people who have overdosed and their families; and advocates are identifying employers and landlords who will accept people who have criminal records linked to addiction, according to the State Journal. In Dayton, Ohio, the local hospital association is developing plans for a crisis care center as part of the work of the Montgomery County Community Overdose Action Team (COAT) , which also has launched educational efforts in schools and a program to reconnect people who have experienced drug overdoses with the emergency workers who responded, a report in the Dayton Daily News said.
Stanford Social Innovation Review profiles Southcentral Foundation, an Alaska Native tribal health organization that is improving health outcomes and reducing health care costs with a transformational approach that incorporates cultural traditions in everything from the physical space to the model of care. Approaches include focusing on people rather than the diseases they carry; acknowledging historic trauma; and integrating physical and mental health care.
In The Ringer, Alyssa Bereznak considers the promise and perils of Woebot, a chatbot designed to offer a form of cognitive behavioral therapy to help people address mental health concerns and change problematic thought patterns.