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  • 6 Apr 2022 6:59 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The Biden administration unveiled a new plan on Tuesday to improve the nation's understanding of long COVID and to better prevent, detect, and treat the condition, particularly in hard-hit communities.

    "Long COVID is real, and there is still so much we don't know about it," said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

    Millions of Americans may be affected by lingering symptoms of an acute COVID-19 infection, with symptoms ranging from labored breathing to an irregular heartbeat to serious neurological symptoms or mental health problems.

    HHS will lead a government-wide response to long COVID, Becerra said, with a new research agenda focused on three core goals: improving care, enhancing outreach and education, and advancing research. HHS will oversee the development of an interagency National Research Action Plan on Long COVID, with input from the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration, among other government entities, as well as from public and private efforts focused on long COVID.

    In addition to establishing an action plan, President Biden issued a memorandum that calls on the HHS Secretary to publish a report that would steer people with long COVID to services available from various federal agencies, as well as those experiencing a COVID-related loss and those dealing with pandemic-related mental health and substance use problems, with particular attention to "high-risk communities."

    Tuesday's announcement and memorandum stem in part from recommendations of the Presidential COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Other efforts by the administration to address long COVID detailed in a White House fact sheet included the following:

    Full details here> 


  • 5 Apr 2022 12:31 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    National Minority Health Month 2022 | April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM). This year, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) will highlight the important role individuals can play in their own communities to help reduce health disparities and improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities and American Indian/Alaska Natives.

    Here is the link to events in the US-https://lnkd.in/dPfPpzNP. Find the local events in your area. 

    This year's NMHM theme is Give Your Community a Boost! This theme focuses on the continued importance of COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters, as one of the strongest tools we can use to protect communities from COVID-19. The theme also supports the many other efforts happening in communities throughout the country to advance health equity.

    Visit their National Minority Health Month website in English and Spanish to find resources, events, social media messages, graphics, and information to share with your organizations, communities, and networks about how to Give Your Community a Boost!

    Public Health is where you are! https://lnkd.in/dBH8p4AV


  • 4 Apr 2022 12:27 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The focus of this session #2 is Rosalind Franklin University’s direct engagement and outreach to the local community. Specifically, we will discuss RFU’s role in addressing health equity through partnerships with local agencies, school systems and as a direct service provider in areas such as North Chicago and Waukegan IL. During this panel discussion, we will look at the roles of RFU plays in outreach in the community, clinical outreach, and curriculum and co-curriculum development and its impact on the local community.

    Learning Objectives

    By attending to this session, you will learn:

    • Associate the role of health, medical and STEM outreach programs in providing access to health careers to local youth in the North Chicago and Waukegan areas and the impact of medical pipeline programs are having
    • Detect the specific changes are made in curricular and co-curricular development at RFU to address health equity
    • Identify the clinical outreach efforts and the impact that those efforts are having in the local community

    For more details on the speakers and to register, visit this page. 


  • 1 Apr 2022 3:44 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Funding will support up to 25 communities in developing and implementing a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is making $72 million in Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) funding available to up to 25 communities nationwide. Funding will be utilized for developing and implementing coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness and sharing that experience and communities around the country to mobilize them toward the same end. Read HUD’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) here
    [HUD 3.24.2022]

    “HUD has a responsibility to communities in this nation, especially youth. Housing greatly impacts our education, our employment, and our opportunities to thrive,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “These grants underscore HUD's commitment to eradicating homelessness, especially among young people, who all need and deserve a safe place to call home.”

    YHDP is unique because the program is informed by youth that have experienced homelessness. It is one of the first dedicated federal initiatives that funds permanent housing programs for youth, and focuses on building local coordinated systems for responding to youth homelessness. HUD continues to work closely with youth to develop and improve YHDP, relying upon the recommendations provided directly from young people who have experienced homelessness.

    Eventual YHDP recipients will be able to use this funding to address youth homelessness in ways that are specifically tailored to their needs, including funding for housing units, wrap-around services, and housing support. YHDP will also support youth-focused performance measurements and coordinated entry systems. Once selected, communities will work with their youth action boards, child welfare agencies, and other community partners to create a comprehensive community plan to end youth homelessness. Communities will serve as leaders in the nation on the work to end homelessness among young people.

    The NOFO reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to preventing and ending youth homelessness through a coordinated community approach. Specifically, the demonstration has seven primary objectives:

    • Build national momentum. Motivate state and local homelessness stakeholders and youth services providers, including Runaway and Homeless Youth providers across the country to prevent and end youth homelessness by forming new partnerships, addressing system barriers, conducting needs assessments, testing promising strategies, and evaluating their outcomes.
    • Promote equity in the delivery and outcomes of homeless assistance. Executive Order 13985 calls on agencies to advance equity through identifying and addressing barriers to equal opportunity that communities may face due to government policies and programs. Similarly, HUD expects YHDP recipients to promote equity throughout the community's youth homeless response system for youth who are disproportionally more likely to experience homelessness, such as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic (non-white), and LGBTQ youth who are disproportionally more likely to experience homelessness. Awarded communities will promote equity throughout their youth homeless response system and all YHDP projects will measure and demonstrate equitable delivery and outcomes. This includes identifying barriers that led to any disparities in subpopulations being served and taking steps to eliminate these barriers in the community's youth homeless response system.
    • Highlight the importance of youth leadership: Demonstrate effective models of strong leadership and agency by youth with lived experience in the community. Create replicable best practices of youth leadership for other communities.
    • Evaluate the coordinated community approach. Evaluate coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness, including local and state partnerships across sectors and other planning operations.
    • Expand capacity. Expand community capacity to serve youth experiencing homelessness (particularly by using a Housing First approach), pilot new models of assistance, and determine what array of interventions is necessary to serve the target population in their community.
    • Evaluate performance measures. Evaluate the use of performance measurement strategies designed to better measure youth outcomes and the connection between youth program outcomes and youth performance measures on overall system performance for the Continuum of Care (CoC).
    • Establish a framework for Federal program and TA collaboration. Determine the most effective way for Federal resources to interact within a state or local system to support a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. 

  • 31 Mar 2022 3:59 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Healthcare workforce shortages today are unprecedented. Some hospital leaders fear the worst is yet to come. [Healthcare Dive 3.31.2022]

    That's because as nurses quit in droves — with some leaving to take higher-paying traveling nurse positions or opting for early retirements — replacing them is becoming increasingly difficult. With many other nurses dropping the profession because of the mental of physical toll of being on front lines of the pandemic for two years, it's almost mission impossible for many health systems to fill staffing holes.  now

    Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate U.S. healthcare organizations will have to fill almost 200,000 open nursing positions every year until 2030, with many of those slots resulting from the need to replace nurses who leave for different occupations or retire.

    "This is a bigger workforce shortage than we have ever dealt with," said Gay Landstrom, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Trinity Health, a nonprofit system with 88 hospitals nationwide.

    While some systems anticipate many nurses who are leaving now will eventually return, staff shortages — already forecast to occur over the next decade even before the pandemic began — likely will persist, driven mainly by an aging nursing population, hospital officials say.

    A large chunk of the most experienced senior nurses are set to retire over the next two decades, as the average age of a registered nurse in the U.S. in 2020 was 51 years old, according to a survey from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

    While interest in healthcare professions like nursing hasn't waned, shortages of nursing educators and sites to get clinical hours pose imminent challenges to the pipeline of new nurses in particular.

    Some systems are boosting benefits and propping up their own internal staffing agencies to keep nurses in house at least for the short to medium term. Others are looking to bolster partnerships with academic institutions to better strengthen their pipelines in the years to come.

    "The role of the nurse needs to be an enticing one," Landstrom said. "We need to have enticing jobs that aren't completely exhausting."

    Nurses under attack

    Throughout the pandemic, surveys have increasingly found widespread stress and burnout among the healthcare workforce. Some nurses say their jobs are now less satisfying, and for some it's untenable as persistent staffing shortages make it difficult to adequately care for patients.

    More than a third of nurses recently surveyed by staffing firm Incredible Health said they plan to leave their current jobs by the end of this year, citing burnout and high-stress work environments. Higher pay elsewhere is the top reason for taking another position, the poll found.

    See full article here> 


  • 30 Mar 2022 11:41 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The BA.2 omicron subvariant accounts for about 55 percent of new cases in the U.S., according to the CDC's latest estimates for the week ending March 26.  [ Beckers Hospital Review 3.30.2022]

    The strain — which is more transmissible than the original omicron variant though has not been linked to more severe disease — has driven a COVID-19 surge in Europe. In the U.S., health officials have said they anticipate an uptick in infections, though a major surge is unlikely. 

    Two more updates: 

    1. Deaths hit a low: The nation's daily average for COVID-19 deaths has stayed below 800 since March 26. The last time deaths averaged below 800 was in August, before omicron took hold, data from The New York Times shows. 

    2. Cases to rise, hospitalizations to fall: Modeling from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic projects daily COVID-19 cases will increase 42 percent nationwide over the next two weeks, from a daily average of 24,934.1 March 27 to 35,449 by April 10. CDC forecasts estimate daily hospital admissions will fall over the four weeks from March 21 to April 16. 


  • 29 Mar 2022 6:24 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Democratic and Republican House members appeared as far apart as ever Tuesday on the issue of the best way to achieve universal healthcare coverage in the U.S.

    "Republicans are serious on this committee about trying to solve the healthcare problems we have in America, but bigger government and government-run healthcare is not the solution to the problem," said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which held a hearing on "Examining Pathways to Universal Health Coverage."

    For a large number of Democratic committee members, however, government-run healthcare -- such as through a "Medicare for All" program -- was exactly the answer. "For my colleagues on this committee, you have a choice in front of you today," said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). "It's a choice to save lives or a choice to let people die ... I came to Congress because 'Medicare for All,' it's not a choice for me. It's a moral imperative."

    Contrary Presentations of Facts

    Viewers trying to figure out what the facts were on the issue would have been hard-pressed to do so. Would a government-run system cost more money? Absolutely, according to committee member Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.). He cited an Urban Institute report saying that a single-payer healthcare plan that would cover all residents -- including undocumented immigrants -- would cost the federal government $34 trillion over 10 years.

    No, it wouldn't cost more money -- instead, it would save money, according to committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). "I would like to submit for the record a study from the University of California San Francisco, which analyzed 22 single-payer proposals and found that every single one would result in long-term financial savings," she said. "If my Republican colleagues were really worried about inflation, they would support policies that bring down healthcare costs, instead of voting 60 times against the Affordable Care Act healthcare plan that has expanded healthcare to 30 million Americans."

    One thing that committee members and witnesses agreed on: the current system is not working very well. "The U.S. system is completely broken," said Jeffrey Sachs, PhD, director of the Columbia University Center for Sustainable Development. "We are spending a fortune -- unlike every other country -- and we're getting worse outcomes. This is what needs to be understood beyond the ideology, beyond the anecdotes."

    "There's no question Americans remain frustrated with the current healthcare system," said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Paeonian Springs, Virginia. "But the more government gets involved, the more that we see the health sector is forced to comply with countless rules and regulations rather than innovating to respond to more choices of more affordable care and coverage for patients ... 'Medicare for All' would take us further toward government control of our health sector, with fewer choices."

    Patient Stories

    The committee heard from a panel of witnesses who described their challenges in getting healthcare. One was ALS activist Ady Barkan, JD. Three years ago, "I had to decide whether to get a tracheostomy ... to compensate for my failing diaphragm," Barkan said. "But I didn't know how I would be able to pay for the care that would allow me to stay alive. My insurance had already denied me a ventilator, stating that it was experimental. And then 2 weeks after that, they rejected access to an FDA-approved ALS drug."

    Barkan's insurer also initially denied him home care, but "we eventually secured 24-hour home care after suing my health insurance company in federal court," he added. "Home care has been life-changing, allowing me to participate in my family's life in ways I thought were no longer possible for me."

    "It is time for America to guarantee comprehensive, affordable healthcare for all. The best way to do that is by enacting 'Medicare for All,'" he concluded.

    But Chris Briggs, public affairs counsel to the Independent Institute, an Oakland, California-based right-leaning think tank, had a different opinion of government-run healthcare. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, "the private marketplace consistently and reliably had offered us a wide variety of inexpensive plans that covered specialist care, even out of state," said Briggs, who lives in Northern Virginia and buys his own health insurance. However, "after the ACA went into effect, [whatever] that was left were increasingly costly plans with fewer benefits, including fewer doctors and fewer hospitals ... We were and still are to this day basically restricted to medical facilities within a short radius of our zip code."

    This became an issue after his young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, and Briggs and his wife wanted her to be treated at Johns Hopkins; their insurer said it would not cover that. "The situation was made all the more painful by swelling premiums, as well as by skyrocketing deductibles," he said. "Maximum out-of-pocket expenses can go as high as $16,500, as it has been for my family."

    "Bad ideas don't get better just because you make them bigger," said Briggs. "We must prohibit the government -- that is to say, all of you -- from further interfering in the acquisition by private citizens of their preferred medical care. And we do that by repealing the ACA and placing back into the hands of Americans real, actuarially sound, automatically renewable insurance products created to meet individual needs."

    Effects on Vulnerable Populations

    Uché Blackstock, MD, an emergency physician in New York City, discussed her experience working in communities where many patients were uninsured or underinsured. "Lack of access to healthcare is one of the primary social determinants of health," she said.

    "I can never forget the 40-year-old Black man with a history of high blood pressure, who came into my ER unconscious on a stretcher after he collapsed at home in front of his family," Blackstock continued. "The paramedics were performing CPR on him. The CT scan of his head showed a brain bleed, a complication of untreated high blood pressure. He had been unable to afford to pay out of pocket for his blood pressure medication since he lost a job a year prior, and as a result, his health insurance ... Now is the time to protect our most vulnerable and underserved communities and identify a pathway to ensuring universal healthcare for all Americans."

    But Turner suggested a different approach. "Rather than dramatically expanding the role of government through new or expanded taxpayer-supported programs, I believe we need targeted approaches to address the specific needs of those who are uninsured or underinsured, especially focusing on those in marginalized communities," she said. "'Medicare for All' would restrict access to new medicines and treatments, lead to dramatic increases in federal spending, and really turn back the clock on innovations in personalized care."

    Joyce Frieden oversees MedPage Today’s Washington coverage, including stories about Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, healthcare trade associations, and federal agencies. She has 35 years of experience covering health policy. 

  • 28 Mar 2022 6:36 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Hospitals are calling for a renewal of COVID-19 as a public health emergency. [ Beckers Health Review-Kelly Gooch] 

    In a March 28 letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, national healthcare associations cited ongoing concerns about vulnerable populations, including children younger than 5 and the immunocompromised, who cannot be vaccinated, as well as the potential for additional surges. The groups also cited challenges hospitals continue to face.

    "Our members continue to face challenges related to workforce shortages and staff burnout, continuing disruptions in the supply chain leading to shortages of supplies and a need for further clinical guidance regarding the symptoms of and best course of treatment for long COVID-19 patients," the letter said. "In addition, our hospitals and health systems are increasingly caring for patients with a variety of health needs for which care had to be delayed due to the pandemic."

    The letter urged HHS to renew the COVID-19 public health emergency because the groups said it provides flexibility and resources to hospitals to respond to COVID-19, while best serving patients. The current public health emergency is set to expire April 15. 

    The letter is signed by America's Essential Hospitals; the American Hospital Association; the Association of American Medical Colleges; the Catholic Health Association of the United States; the Children's Hospital Association; the Federation of American Hospitals; the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare; Premier healthcare alliance; and Vizient.

    In February, more than 70 House Republican lawmakers signed a letter calling for an end to the public health emergency.


  • 25 Mar 2022 9:07 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The use of abdominal organs from COVID-19-positive donors for transplant was safe, a small study showed. [MedPage Today Molly Walker]

    No rejection occurred among four recipients who received liver, kidney, or pancreas transplants from four COVID-positive donors, and none of the recipients acquired a COVID infection, reported Emily Eichenberger, MD, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, at a special COVID-focused pre-meeting of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).

    "While limited, our experience to date supports the use of abdominal organs from COVID-19 positive donors as safe and effective, even those actively infected, or with lung disease caused by COVID-19," Eichenberger said in a statement.

    In the protocol implemented by her medical center, organ type, duration and severity of COVID, signs of hypercoagulable illness, and quality of organs were taken into account, as was the urgency of the transplant.

    She explained that transplants were allowed from COVID-positive donors, provided the organs were good quality, though lung and intestine transplants had to go through more enhanced criteria, such as whether the donor tested positive for COVID fewer than 20 days prior to death. This was consistent with CDC infection control practices, she noted.

    Among the four recipients examined, a total of six abdominal organ transplants were performed. Of the donors, one died from COVID complications, including pulmonary emboli, one died from a brain abscess likely triggered by COVID infection, and the other two had "mild to moderate" infection and died of other causes (a stroke and a drug overdose). Two donors were unvaccinated, while two had unknown vaccination status.

    At a median follow-up of 46 days, all six organs had stable graft function. One heart-liver transplant recipient required an "urgent heart re-transplantation," Eichenberger said, which was completed using an asymptomatic COVID-positive donor.

    She noted that her medical center has performed 20 successful abdominal organ transplants in total.

    Jury Still Out on Omicron Infectious Period?

    In another presentation at this special ECCMID pre-conference on COVID, a researcher argued that there is not enough evidence to say definitively that the Omicron variant has a shorter infectious period than other variants.

    Using samples of culturable virus as a proxy for infectiousness, research has yet to prove that the period of infectiousness for Omicron is shorter, said Marjolein Irwin-Knoester, MD, of University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands.

    She pointed to diverging recommendations for isolation following exposure across countries, ranging from 4 days in Norway and Denmark, up to 10 days in Germany and France. Ten days is the isolation period recommended by the WHO, she added.

    "The decisions being made by different countries around the world to shorten the period of isolation for Omicron infections are partly based on evidence from modeling, but also take account of the fact that Omicron is causing less severe disease, and fewer hospitalizations and deaths," Irwin-Knoester noted. "From the evidence so far, I am not convinced that a person is likely to be infectious for a shorter period of time with Omicron as they would have been with previous variants."

    She recommended an isolation period of 7 days, with 5 days as an "acceptable balance" between risk of infectiousness and what communities are likely to tolerate, but pointed out that this does not apply to everyone. Immunocompromised patients, especially transplant recipients and hematology patients, can shed infectious virus for months, and in that case, cycle threshold values should be used. Those with "continuing airway symptoms" like coughing and sneezing should also likely isolate for up to 10 to 14 days, she advised.

    Molly Walker

     is deputy managing editor and covers infectious diseases for MedPage Today. 


  • 24 Mar 2022 10:17 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Half of all states and nearly three quarters of all counties experienced more deaths than births in their populations between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released today.

    Natural change is a measure of the relationship between births and deaths.

    Natural increase happens when there are more births than deaths. Natural decrease means there were more people dying than babies born in a particular population.

    Areas with large aging populations often experience natural decrease and shrinking populations in the absence of migration. 

    Although more stats experienced natural decrease in 2021, patterns at the state level may mask trends in lower levels of geography.

    While widespread, natural decrease was more common in some regions in 2021:

    • Seven out of nine states (78%) in the Northeast had more deaths than births, making this the region with the most widespread natural decrease in 2021.
    • The West had the lowest share of states with natural decrease — three out of 13 (23%).
    • More states in the South had natural decrease than increase (65%); the reverse was true in the Midwest, where 33% of states had more deaths than births.

     Full article here> 


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