June 25, 2021

Here’s How You Can Improve Your Brain Health

Much of the development, and ultimate success, of homos sapiens over the other genera of homo can be traced to their cognitive development. Looking back at the evidence we have for how and why our ancestors' brains developed in the ways they did, we find some useful guidelines for maintaining our own brain health today. A lot of this development is thanks to our social lives. An active social life is an integral preserver of brain function. We know that social isolation worsens brain function—something we found especially present during this last year. Along with social interaction comes innovation and understanding that came to further define the development of homo sapiens. Diet was also a critical part of our brain development; being the most omnivorous species on the planet, humans discovered how to eat almost anything, and this hunger provided our brain with the much-needed nutrition that allowed it to develop further. All of these aspects involved in our ancestors' development paint a consistent picture with what we should be focusing on today to preserve our brain health. Read more

More Americans than ever are enrolled in Medicaid —

From the beginning of the pandemic, the total number of Americans enrolled in Medicaid has increased by nearly 14 percent. From February 2020 to January 2021, almost 10 million additional individuals enrolled. This means that 74 million Americans—the highest number on record—currently rely upon Medicaid to meet their healthcare needs. Part of the reason this number is so high is that the first coronavirus relief bill provided additional funding from the federal government to states, allowing for increased coverage of Medicaid costs. In turn, states have held off on running eligibility checks, meaning that many individuals are able to maintain their enrollment even following a return to the labor market or increased wages. This has been a saving grace for many Americans and will remain the case until the federal government ends the coronavirus public health emergency, potentially at the end of this year. Read more

Obesity in teens raises adult diabetes risk, even after weight loss —

A recent study, supporting what many have suspected, confirms that teens who are obese (even if they end up losing this weight), are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes or heart attacks in their 30s and 40s. Exactly how the weight of adolescents affects their health outcomes later in life is not fully understood, but it's clear that risk factors can begin at younger ages. "Adolescence is an important time period to prevent future diabetes and heart attacks," said study author Dr. Jason Nagata, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. In summary, the study found that teens with higher BMI scores, compared with those having lower scores, had a nine percent increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes in their 30s and 40s. So, where do we go from here? "Parents should encourage teenagers to develop healthy behaviors, such as regular physical activity and balanced meals," said Nagata. Even encouraging family walks, shopping, and cooking can make meals more social and add accountability for the entire family. Luckily, says Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, we are not powerless: "[While] you may not be able to reverse it entirely [...] You can reverse some damage that's been done." Read more

Is increased healthcare spending on patients' social needs effective? —

In recent years, there have been numerous studies surrounding the impact of additional funding toward patients' social needs from state and federal governments, private hospitals, insurers, and philanthropists. However, what often seem like surefire ways to improve patient health and lower medical costs do not always result in the expected outcomes. To this extent, it's still unclear to what extent these strategies—emphasizing the social determinants of health—are effective. Many of these efforts focus on providing transportation to and from healthcare centers, but like so many other forms of support, they still seem to serve only a small number of patients. They also often fail to provide enough support; a lack of housing and food often go hand-in-hand with a lack of transportation, but these other two needs are much more difficult to satisfy. There's hope in a new program launching in North Carolina that will entail spending nearly $700 million over five years to provide Medicaid enrollees with housing, food, and transportation assistance. Only time and consistent followup will show whether well-funded programs like this one that cast a wider net can make a tangible impact on the cost of and access to healthcare. Read more

Coronavirus Updates

The challenge of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers —

Last week, the U.S. Labor Department posted a temporary emergency message stating that healthcare workers face "grave danger" in the workplace if they continue to resist vaccination. According to the Labor Department, this danger will persist as long as "less than 100 percent of the workforce is fully vaccinated." However, the questions and concerns over the vaccines follow an incredibly difficult and distressing year for frontline workers, and even now, many healthcare facilities are finding fewer applicants for open positions to provide essential care. So far, pharmacists, physicians, and registered nurses have appeared the least hesitant to receive their vaccinations, while home health aides, EMTs, and nursing assistants have shown the greatest hesitancy among healthcare workers. While vaccine rollout is continuing, and hesitancy does seem to be declining, more accessible vaccine education will be necessary to continue to close the vaccine gap. Read more

Vaccination rate among young adults slows —

A recent report from the CDC has found that U.S. vaccination rates have slowed since mid-April, especially for young adults. The CDC warns that if this lower vaccination rate continues through the summer, young adults will have a markedly lower level of coverage than older adults. This means that by the end of August, only about 57% of adults between the ages of 18–29 will be vaccinated, while the rates of older adults will be substantially higher: 30–49 years of age (71%), 50–64 (86%), and 65+ (95%). Although this means that roughly 78% of adults could be at least partially vaccinated by the end of August, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the U.S. may still fall short of its July 4 goal to have 70% of its population partially vaccinated due to this gap in those 18–25. Read more

Upcoming Events

Event Recap: Patient Advocacy & Pronouns —

Avoiding healthcare due to poor previous experiences is not uncommon in the LGBTQ+ community. We recently sat down to chat about gender identity and pronouns to see how we can ensure all patients receive the respect and care that they need when entering a care setting. We spoke about cultural influences on gender, avoiding assumptions, and how to make your patients feel respected and welcomed. Watch the recap

Clockin' Out 🏖

"Working in healthcare... It's like working in retail except every customer is hungry, in pain, sleep deprived, and has expectations on par with an exclusive 7-star resort. Oh, and everything is beeping."
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