IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about racial and ethnic health disparities, the sunset of many COVID-19 cost-sharing waivers, and the FDA’s emergency approval of rapid COVID-19 tests. Don’t miss the webinar on the “core components” research approach from the American Institutes for Research (AIR).
How can public health professionals harness the power of social influencers? IMPAQ’s advanced analytics experts developed a computer algorithm that quickly and accurately identifies the most influential individuals in a social network in order to engage them in information dissemination for public health campaigns, such as contract tracing and disease prevention.

While applicable for a variety of purposes, the algorithm was designed for the FDA Office of Science to identify the most influential young people in a local social network for a media campaign against the use of tobacco and vaporizers.

IMPAQ authors Dr. Daniel Wang, Dr. Minh Huynh, Dr. Aaron Heuser, and Mike Trinh recently published a paper on the algorithm in the journal Social Network Analysis and Mining.
This week marks over six million COVID-19 cases in the United States. With rising numbers and a need for accurate COVID-19 data, a recent policy reversal allows the CDC—rather than HHS—to continue collecting daily COVID-19 data from hospitals.

  • Cost-sharing waivers that were initially extended for COVID-19 treatments are set to expire by October. Many Americans face the possibility of high medical bills and no out-of-pocket limits for COVID-19 treatments.

  • Hospitals and patients expressed concerns about the current Trump administration program to reimburse hospitals for COVID-19 claims, as many patients do not qualify due to the program’s strict requirements and narrow coverage.

  • The FCC, HHS, and USDA delivered on President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access through a signed Memorandum of Understanding announcing a joint effort on the Rural Telehealth Initiative.

  • HHS increased access to pediatric vaccines by amending the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. The amendment authorizes pharmacists to administer FDA approved vaccines to children between the ages of three and 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • HHS and DOD partnered to increase access to rapid COVID-19 testing under a $760 million contract awarded to Abbott by the Trump administration. This initiative will allow Abbott to distribute 150 million rapid tests nationwide.
Here are some resources for following the latest efforts to address COVID-19:
  • IMPAQ researchers developed a dashboard to provide a comprehensive overview of COVID-19 clinical trial data. This dashboard is updated with new data and infographics every two weeks.

  • The COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research partnered to create a COVID Racial Data Tracker. This tracker illustrates racial inequities at a national level from all 50 states and territories.

  • Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center developed a tool to track state-by-state COVID-19 testing trends.
COVID-19 Further Exposes Racial
& Ethnic Inequities
A Wisconsin police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. This shooting in Kenosha County has amplified demands for racial justice and police reform, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought to light decades of racial inequities. CNN (8/31)
A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that implicit biases and structural inequities are at play in the physician-patient relationship. The study found that Black infants cared for by Black doctors had a 39 to 58 percent decrease in mortality compared to Black infants cared for by white doctors. Insider (8/19)
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, health care workers of color are two times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white counterparts. In fact, the American Immigration Council published a study reporting that high-poverty areas in the United States tend to have more immigrant health care workers and less personal protective equipment as compared to wealthier areas. Kaiser Health News (8/26)
COVID-19 Testing, Treatment & Prevention
The NIH and CDC commissioned a draft framework by the National Academies to aid policymakers in creating a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The four-phased, evidence-based plan recommended by the National Academies committee is aimed to decrease morbidity and mortality by COVID-19, especially among high-risk populations. Reuters (9/1)
Access to COVID-19 testing should increase in the United States as Abbott prepares to distribute millions of its low-cost COVID-19 tests. These $5 rapid tests could be the first step toward Americans returning safely to work and school as it is 97 percent accurate, making it more accurate than comparable tests. The Wall Street Journal (8/26)

  • As many Americans are eager to resume their daily lives, the need for rapid testing is increasing. Experts, however, say that rapid testing could lead the population into a false sense of safety. Healthline (8/26)
With the nation’s top scientists expressing varying levels of confidence on the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, the FDA granted emergency use of blood plasma with President Trump’s full support. The Wall Street Journal (8/23)
The University of Washington Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation projects US COVID-19 deaths to increase from 180,000 in September to nearly 310,000 by December 2020 if a nationwide mask mandate is not implemented. The Hill (8/22)

COVID-19 in Newly Re-Opened Schools
& Colleges
According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among children and teenagers in the United States are increasing at a faster rate than among adults. However, young children appear to have a much lower rate of contracting COVID-19. The New York Times (8/31)
Though fall semester began with many colleges holding in-person classes, it was short-lived for many as clusters of COVID-19 appeared on college campuses nationwide. The shift to online college classes also came with the WHO warning that young adults could be prominent spreaders of COVID-19. The Hill (8/23)
Spotlight on IMPAQ
Dr. Adaeze Enekwechi discussed humanizing the social determinants of health at Revel Health’s “Social Determinants Up Close and Personal” webinar event on August 25. The virtual event convened a panel of experts to discuss strategies for reducing bias, improving access to care, and other important steps in advancing health equity. Read Dr. Enekwechi’s key takeaways and watch the webinar recording.
Dr. Enekwechi was also recently highlighted in AIR’s Meet the Expert series. In the interview, learn how she sees organizations like IMPAQ and AIR making a real difference in advancing equity in health care and beyond. 
Our colleagues at AIR are committed to finding evidence-based solutions for opioid use disorder, including access to medications for addiction treatment. In a new video developed to onboard clinic administrators at Federally Qualified Health Centers, AIR highlights the voices and experiences of patients and staff regarding medication for addiction treatment in primary care clinics.
COVID-19 has brought on a rapid expansion of telehealth, but who is it leaving behind? In this issue brief, researchers from IMPAQ and AIR explore challenges surrounding equity in telehealth and offer recommendations for making this growing health care avenue more accessible to all.

The issue brief is authored by Stevland Sonnier, Sinead Maharrey, Kevin Van DykeDr. Yael Harris, and Dr. Adaeze Enekwechi.
Other Health News
During the last week of August, 30 organizations were granted funds by CMS to serve as federal marketplace navigators for their respective states. In another announcement, CMS shared that Michigan, New Mexico, and Oregon have made efforts to improve health care access, especially for individuals with opioid use disorder, by updating their 2022 EHB-benchmark plans. Health Affairs (9/1)
Georgia’s 1332 waiver will allow the state to exit without creating a state-based exchange. Even as many public commenters express concerns regarding the lack of consumer access with privatizing under phase two of Georgia's 1332 waiver, the Trump administration has deemed it complete. Health Affairs (8/25)
CMS’ MCIT rule increases access to innovative technologies for Medicare beneficiaries. The proposed rule allows simultaneous FDA approval and Medicare coverage in order to eliminate the current lag time faced by innovators and Medicare beneficiaries in waiting for FDA approval and Medicare coverage, respectively. CMS (8/31)
Feel-Good News Stories
The Tapajnas cancelled their grand wedding festivities amid the pandemic. Instead, they donated their wedding food to and volunteered at Laura’s Home, a nonprofit shelter for homeless women and children. Today (8/25)
Paris Williams was inspired by a book she read in school about giving and began her own nonprofit organization, Paris Cares Foundation, to deliver care packages for homeless individuals. Paris and her family have provided more than 500 care packages containing food and other essential items during the pandemic. Local 21 News (8/12)
Graphic of the Week
IMPAQ developed this infographic using data from our COVID-19 Clinical Trials Tracker, available as a free resource for researchers, physicians, and anyone interested in diving deep into the current COVID-19 clinical trials landscape. Access the tool.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
ASPE and AIR will host a webinar discussing the use of core components approaches to identify evidence-based attributes and characteristics of programs that are effective in meeting community needs. Core components research uses systematic reviews and meta-analyses to identify the parts of a program that contribute to desired outcomes and could be successfully replicated across related programs and systems. A team of panelists will discuss an ASPE issue brief released in August as part of a series of working papers. The webinar will focus specifically on evidence-based programming for youth and cover components of effective programs that are designed specifically to meet the needs of target populations. Register here.
Though children may not be at high risk for COVID-19, they face other challenges such as food insecurity and housing instability during the pandemic. The NIHCM Foundation hosts a webinar to discuss the effects of these adverse childhood experiences on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children. Register here.
The CMS Medicaid IAP webinar focuses on addressing maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity for Medicaid beneficiaries. The webinar will be presented in an interactive format to allow participants to actively engage with the speakers and ask questions. 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.