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Weekly Health Digest: Insurance For Black Moms, Malaria Vaccine, Campus Quarantine, And More

A summary of important health news from the past week.

Giving black moms health insurance may save their babies’ lives

By: Julia Belluz

A new study in JAMA finds that states that have expanded Medicaid have seen improved outcomes in black infants’ health. Black infants are the most vulnerable population of babies—“compared to white babies, black babies are more than twice as likely to die in infancy.” As discovered in the study that focused on prematurity and low birth weight, the racial health gap could be closed by ensuring all women have health insurance. Expanding Medicaid is so important because low-income pregnant women were not covered before the Affordable Care Act unless they were already parents or disabled. Hundreds of thousands of women lose their insurance coverage just 60 days after giving birth. Therefore, the study finds link between continuity of health care before, during and after pregnancies due to insurance for healthier moms and healthier babies. This makes sense considering African Americans have had the larger gains in health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act compared to white Americans.

World’s first malaria vaccine to go to 360,000 African children

By: Katie Hunt

The world’s first malaria vaccine –Mosquirix– will be delivered to children in three African countries – Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana – as part of a large-scale pilot project. Malaria kills about 400,000 people every year, mainly children under 5. While the disease has been contained through bed nets and other measures, new solutions are needed to continue to see this progress, especially in times when malaria cases are increasing. According to the WHO, the vaccine is a potential complementary method and a promising tool that prevented “4 in 10 malaria cases” in clinical trials. The WHO emphasizes that the vaccine is an addition to the already implemented methods such as nets and insecticides. While many see the vaccine as ineffective, others see it as 40% protection is “better than no protection at all.”

Measles Quarantine on Campus: Controversial but Effective

By: Sandee LaMotte

Six hundred and twenty-eight people at California State University in Los Angeles, and another 46 at UCLA have been quarantined in order to prevent the spread of measles on campus. Cal State has asked individuals to self-identify and report their vaccination records if they were in the North Library from 11am-3pm on April 11th, the time of the exposure. While the decision has frustrated many students and faculty, public health officials maintain that college campuses are “hotbeds of infectious diseases” and that quarantine represents an effective public health strategy in such an emergency. The number of measles cases in the US has hit an all time high since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. This is not the first time that quarantine has been used to prevent the spread of disease on campuses, however. Harvard utilized a similar strategy during a mumps outbreak in 2016 and, during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009-20010, CDC urged schools to close for two weeks then later urged affected students and faculty to self-isolate.  

The WHO recommends no screen time for babies and only 1 hour for kids under 5

By: Rachel Siegel and Craig Timberg

For the first time the World Health Organization (WHO) has released recommendations for how much screen time children should receive. They suggest that children under five years old should not spend more than one hour per day watching screens and children 18 months and younger should not look at screens. With the announcement of the guidelines, representatives at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford and Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have critiqued the strength of the WHO’s data. The WHO hopes to decrease the amount of sedentary behavior in the general population and these guidelines may be a first step.

Seniors’ suicides in long-term care often go overlooked, analysis finds

By: Melissa Bailey and JoNel Aleccia

A Kaiser Health News and PBS News Hour investigation found that seniors living in nursing homes and other long-term supported residential centers are committing suicide at alarmingly high rates. And these deaths are often overlooked in our national conversations about suicide. Rates may be as high as one death per day and there is evidence that up to a third of residents have suicidal thoughts. Many report feeling abandoned by family or not having attentive caregivers in facilities.

Foodborne disease infections are on the rise. Here are the most common

By: Denise Powell

A new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report highlights the top causes of foodborne illness in 2018. A total of 25,606 illnesses and 120 deaths were identified. Leading the list was the bacteria campylobacter, most commonly found in chicken, raw milk, and water. The bacteria is known to cause more than a million illnesses throughout the nation every year and hospitalizes up to 18% of patients. The incidence rates for the majority of these infections, including Salmonella, vibrio, and cyclospora, are on the rise, which demands attention. The CDC urges consumers to be well-informed of sources of foodborne illnesses and practice good sanitation, particularly around food.