IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about COVID-19 case and vaccine updates, new rules on surprise medical bills, efforts to strengthen health equity, and more.
While deaths from drug overdoses have been on the rise in the U.S. for many years, recent CDC data show a 30 percent spike between 2019 and 2020. A drug called naloxone has been proven safe and effective at reducing opioid overdose deaths. However, fear, stigma, and a new production line issue threaten its widespread distribution. In a new "In the Field" piece for the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Amanda Latimore, director of AIR's Center for Addiction Research and Effective Solutions, explains how communities can make naloxone more widely accessible.
Last week, AIR officially launched the AIR Equity Initiative, through which AIR is committing $100M+ over five years toward behavioral and social science research and technical assistance to address the underlying causes of systemic inequity and to increase opportunities for people and society. A recording of the launch event and roundtable discussion—Bridges Toward Equity: Making Workforce Development Work for All—is now available to view.
COVID-19
COVID-19 Cases and Related Updates. On 10/1, the COVID-19 death toll in United States passed 700,000.



COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Updates. Among fully vaccinated people in the United States, one million have registered for a booster shot.


  • The CDC strongly recommends that all pregnant and lactating people get the vaccine due to their increased risk of dying from COVID-19; however, new data suggest that only 15 percent of Black, pregnant people have been vaccinated, which could increase the already elevated risk of maternal mortality among that population.

  • An antiviral pill developed by Merck reportedly reduces hospitalization from COVID-19 by 50 percent. This development raises the chances of an adequate home treatment for COVID-19 that could help alleviate over-burdened hospital systems.

Health Administration Updates
The Biden administration released new rules this week to enact consumer protection legislation that will protect patients from surprise medical bills. Planned to take effect on Jan. 1, the rules mean that patients will no longer be responsible for medical bills accrued during an emergency department visit outside their plan’s provider network. Patients will also be protected from unexpected charges when an out-of-network clinician takes part in an in-network procedure. AP News (9/30)
According to a new POLITICO-Harvard poll, many Americans think health care issues should be included in the infrastructure and spending bills Congress is debating. When presented with 20 policy priorities, including health and other issues, 39 percent of respondents said direct government price negotiations with drug manufacturers is “extremely important.” The Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion social spending package includes a provision for drug price negotiation. Politico (10/1)
Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, plans to leave his role at the agency later this year. Collins, a geneticist and physician, began working at NIH three decades ago and served as director for a record 12 years. During his time at NIH, Collins encouraged initiatives addressing such issues as COVID-19, Alzheimer’s disease, and opioid use disorder. Collins will remain at NIH to lead his lab researching Type 2 diabetes and genetic treatments for Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. Politico (10/4)
Health Equity
Heath disparities and health equity have moved to the forefront of public health research during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one of the more prominent developments being the NIH’s recent announcement of $100 million in funding for research focusing on health equity. A STAT News investigation looks into who is conducting such research, finding that a number of the researchers are white and already well-funded. Such individuals tend to have little to no background in the topic and rely on the health equity work of Black, Brown, and Asian scholars, often without giving them credit. STAT News (9/23)
Researcher Dr. Paula Braveman, director of the Center on Social Disparities in Health at the University of California-San Francisco, recently published a report citing racism as a significant “upstream” determinant of preterm birth among Black people. Black people are twice as likely as white people to experience premature birth. The report highlights how racism causes chronic stress, which leads to changes in biological health. Kaiser Health News (10/5)
Graphic of the Week
In a new infographic, the National Institution of Health Care Management outlines how algorithms and artificial intelligence can lead to racial biases and offers strategies to use these tools to address health equity.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
Friday, October 8, 2021, 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET
In this webinar hosted by Health Affairs, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, co-chair and co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, is joined by a panel of experts to discuss perinatal mental health and how to support pregnant people before and after birth. Register here.
This webinar with Dr. Leana Wen—emergency physician, former Baltimore health commissioner, CNN medical analyst, and Washington Post contributing columnist—will explore local dimensions of public health, including the role of racism in shaping a person’s future. Register here.
This webinar will provide a primer on health data, how we use it, and how we process it. Attendees will understand the challenges of leveraging health data for decision-making and the implications for providers, payers, and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists will discuss how to ensure that data is translated into unbiased information and how we can catch, solve, and prevent flaws in data for more equitable care. Register here.
Friday, October 15, 2021, 1:00 – 2:00 PM ET
Join Making Health Happen for another installation of its health equity webinar series. The webinar will focus on how diabetes disproportionately affects people of color and how other marginalized groups have limited access and education on treatment and disease management resources. Register here.
NOTE: The information, analyses, and opinions expressed in the articles, publications, or comments contained therein are those of the authors and should not be considered verified or endorsed by IMPAQ or any of our partners or clients.
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