IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about COVID-19 case updates, news about vaccine boosters, an increase in Social Security benefits, resources to manage chronic pain, plain language research summaries, and more.
The opioid epidemic continues to be a major health crisis—and treatment options for those who experience chronic pain, particularly those with disabilities, are often neither simple nor straightforward. The Knowledge Hub, developed by experts from the American Institutes for Research (AIR), provides evidence-informed resources to address specific issues and knowledge gaps. AIR’s newest “In the Field” post highlights resources from the Knowledge Hub for individuals managing chronic pain, their care providers, and their families. (IMPAQ is an affiliate of AIR.)
In line with its goals of transparency and making the findings of its research accessible to all, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has launched an effort to translate research findings into plain language summaries. AIR researchers, Maureen Maurer, Kirsten Firminger, and Tania Dutta, along with colleagues, developed and tested a template for such summaries. In an article published in Health Literacy Research and Practice, these researchers describe lessons learned from this effort, including the importance of consistency across summaries, content prioritization, and balancing plain language and reading level with precision. The authors note that their lessons learned may be useful to other organizations communicating with the public.
COVID-19 Cases and Related Updates. The CDC expects COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths to decline in the U.S. over the next four weeks. These projections align with several consecutive weeks of fewer reported hospitalizations and deaths.

  • Despite declining cases of COVID-19, children continue to test positive for COVID-19 at higher rates than adults; however, they are less likely than adults to experience serious illness.

  • With the deadline approaching for U.S. active duty troops to comply with the military’s vaccine mandate, as many as 25 percent of active duty service members remain unvaccinated. Military officials are weighing consequences for service members who do not comply with the mandate.

  • Findings from a study published in Reproductive Biology suggest that severe cases of COVID-19 may impact an individual’s fertility. No COVID-19 vaccine has been linked to cases of infertility.

Booster Shots. There have been several developments on boosters in the last few days.

  • The FDA approved a booster shot for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The FDA approved the Moderna booster for elderly adults, individuals who are immunocompromised, and those who work in settings with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson booster can be given to any adult at least two months after they received their first shot.

  • Health experts do not recommend a Pfizer booster shot for people who had COVID-19 prior to becoming fully vaccinated, noting the person’s experience with COVID-19 provides similar protection to that of a booster shot.
Administration News
President Biden is expected to nominate Dr. Robert Califf to lead the FDA. Califf previously served as the FDA’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco from February 2016 - February 2017. CNBC (10/14)
The Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will receive a 5.9 percent increase in benefits starting in January 2022. The increase in benefits reflects increases in the cost of living due to inflation. Benefits typically increase between 1 and 2 percent annually. NBC (10/13)
HHS is committing $100 million through the American Rescue Plan to help address burnout among health care workers. State programs can apply to receive funds to use toward supporting, recruiting, and retaining “primary care clinicians who live and work in underserved communities.” NPR (10/15)
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation presented five new objectives to advance health equity for Medicare beneficiaries. The five objectives include: increasing the number of beneficiaries in accountable care models; collecting data on health disparities; supporting innovative care delivery approaches; reducing fraud, waste, surprise bills, and improper payments; and collaborating with commercial payers. Modern Healthcare (10/20)
Other Health News
CMS approved Colorado’s plan to require all health plans on its State-based Exchange to cover gender-affirming services for transgender individuals. The new requirement will be effective for plans beginning Jan. 1, 2023. Modern Healthcare (10/12)
Provisional data released by the CDC show that opioid-related deaths increased by 30 percent between March 2020 and March 2021. Forty-seven states saw an increase in overdose-related deaths during that year, which coincided with one of the deadliest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic. Axios (10/13)
Graphic of the Week
October is Health Literacy Month. Maureen Maurer, American Institutes for Research principal researcher, discusses her work to make research findings more understandable and useful on the Oct. 1 episode of the Health Literacy Out Loud podcast, hosted by Helen Osborne.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
The webinar will address key lessons and insights from the first year of the 21st Century Cures Act, which allowed individuals with end stage renal disease to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans for the first time. Register here.
Panelists will delve into factors contributing to perinatal health and mental health as well as policy levers and promising solutions available to stakeholders to reduce and prevent mental health symptoms and mood disorders. Register here.
In this online learning course, participants will learn solutions for increasing the physical accessibility of health care settings and services for people with disabilities. On Demand link.
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.