Volume 02 | September 01, 2017
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Office of Population Science and Policy (OPSP) is excited to bring you the second issue of The Pioneer Pulse, a monthly supplement to our larger quarterly newsletter, The Pioneer. The Pioneer Pulse is filled with news and updates on population science and policy issues affecting our region, state, and country. This month’s issue focuses on opioid use, vaccination rates, rural mortality, insurance subsidies, and upcoming OPSP events. 
OPSP in the News!
A news story on WAND 17 highlights OPSP's partnership with Franklin and Muffley elementary schools in Decatur to improve children's health.
Noteworthy News

  • Challenges with opioid use continue to grow in the United States. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency and has pledged to dedicate more attention and resources. Rural areas are disproportionately affected by this crisis.

  • Another disparity that is becoming more prominent is the difference in vaccination rates between urban and rural populations. The CDC recently noted that HPV vaccination rates are lower in rural areas. Though the general trend in vaccination rates is increasing, both HPV and meningococcus vaccines lag behind others.
Health insurers are awaiting Legislative or Executive Branch action before two approaching deadlines this month.

First, September 5th is the final day for insurers to submit their proposed premiums for the upcoming year. It is also the first day of hearings for the Senate Health Committee. The government must decide whether to continue funding a key component of the ACA, cost-sharing reductions , which allow millions of Americans who depend on subsidies to afford health coverage. Cost-sharing reductions are actually quite simple: the federal government pays insurers on the marketplace an average of $7 billion per year (Insurers have asked for $8 billion for 2018), who then provide insurance at a lower rate to consumers. Without these subsidies, insurers would need to decide whether to hike premiums to pay for the loss or pull out of the marketplace altogether.

The second date, September 27 th , is the deadline for insurers to sign contracts with the federal government that allows them to sell insurance plans on the marketplace. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) warned that if the insurers are not assured that the cost-sharing reductions will be funded, “9 million Americans in the individual market who receive no government help purchasing health insurance and whose premiums have already skyrocketed may see their premiums go up even more”. As hearings begin in September, all eyes will be on Congress and the President.  
Rural Mortality Rates
OPSP's mission is to improve the health of our rural populations. This includes access to care, children's physical and mental health, and opioid use and abuse. With a possible connection to opioid use, the CDC published an article that examined the trend in suicides by level of urbanization between 1999 and 2015. The disparity in suicide rate was largest between metro and non-metro areas. This includes rates of suicide in youth. The Atlantic reports the difference to be as much as double in rural areas as compared to urban ones. This may reflect limited access to mental health care in rural areas. Opioid use disproportionately affects rural areas and is also associated with increased risk for suicide.
Project Highlight
Asthma in Springfield and Decatur
Working in collaboration with HSHS St. John's Hospital and the Springfield Community Federation, SIU SOM's Office of Population Science and Policy helped spearhead a project using community health workers (CHWs) to reduce the indoor asthma triggers and consequently decrease the need for visits to the emergency room for uncontrolled pediatric asthma. Though the program in Springfield is approaching completion, the work led to a creation of a plan with the Decatur Public School District and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to address the pediatric asthma burden using a school based strategy, built and driven by the community.
Upcoming Events
Office of Population Science and Policy faculty and staff are routinely invited to speak at local, statewide, and national events. If you are interested in learning more about our Office, or would like to have a member of the Office attend or speak at your local event, please contact us at opsp@siumed.edu .

  • Dr. Wiley Jenkins will be presenting research efforts of his and Office colleagues at the annual American College of Epidemiology meeting in New Orleans, LA on Monday, September 25th. The poster is entitled “Rural-Urban Differences in Human Papillomavirus-Associated Cancer: Rates and Trends”.

Connect With Us

Office of Population Science & Policy
201 E. Madison Street
Springfield, IL 62702
(217) 545-7939