skip to Main Content
A blue image of 5 people who are holding on their laps clipboards, printouts, laptops and a tablet, surmounted by a semi-opaque white box containing the words "Weekly Health Digest"

The Surgeon General’s New Mission: Adolescent Mental Health

By Matt Richtel, NY Times

Adolescents are struggling with mental health, and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is drawing attention to the ever-so-prevalent mental health crisis. The suicide rate among 10–19 year-olds has increased by 40% and emergency room visits for self-harm rose by 88% from 2001 to 2019. Some might question if rates are higher because there is reduced stigma surrounding mental health and people are more willing to talk about it. However, this is not the case – hospitalizations and suicide rates have increased, so clearly, people are struggling immensely. 

Dr. Murthy talks about what factors he thinks are contributing. Young people have reported feeling lonely and isolated at increasing rates, in addition to feeling the pressures of technology and social media. News is readily available 24/7, making it hard to escape media related to stressful information feeding feelings of fear and anxiety. Additionally, social media brings cyberbullying and constant comparisons to others – leading young people to feel worse about themselves. Currently, young people feel a large pressure to pursue a future with objectives that reflect power and status. They feel stuck in a hustle culture, further contributing to struggles with mental health. 

It is apparent that young people are experiencing mental health challenges at increasing rates, and it is imperative we give this crisis the attention it deserves. 

by Rebecca Sugerman

Autism Prevalence Rises Again, Study Finds

By Emily Anthes, NY Times

According to a study released by the CDC last week, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in American children is rising. The study concluded that in 2018, one in 44 eight-year-olds had autism; in 2020, this number rose to one in 36.  This increase follows a steady upward trend that has been documented since 2006. However, the rise does not mean autism has become more common–it could be a result of increased awareness and screening. 

Another recent study, based on data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, suggests that the COVID pandemic may have disrupted or delayed the detection of autism in children. Researchers claim that during the pandemic, parents were less likely to bring their children in for autism evaluations. The study found that before the pandemic began, autism evaluations and identifications were higher in children than they were once the pandemic began. Dr. Karen Remley, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that disruptions in the timely evaluation of children can have lasting effects. 

However, putting the delay in diagnoses the pandemic brought aside, doctors and researchers believe this information to be good news. Children are now being diagnosed at a younger age, allowing them to get the services and support they need.

by Jordyn Rosenberg

Insulin As Preventive Care: Why Not Eliminate Patient Cost Sharing?

By William Walters, Richard Hughes IV, HealthAffairs

Eli Lilly recently announced they were cutting prices of their suite of insulin drugs by 70%. The decision, which also caps out-of-pocket costs for insulin drugs at $35 per month, comes after years of bipartisan efforts to curb insulin prices. The action taken by Eli Lilly follows a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August of 2022, which states that Medicare Part D beneficiaries have an out-of-pocket price cap of $35. Now, any patient that is prescribed an Eli Lilly brand insulin drug, such as Humalog, will not be subject to more than $35 out-of-pocket regardless of their insurance. 

Riding the wave of insulin price reductions, massive pharmaceutical companies Novo Nordisk and Sanofi followed suit decreasing prices by 70% and 78% respectively. While the news is encouraging for diabetes patients that rely on insulin for survival, we should ask ourselves why these patients have had to pay anything out-of-pocket at all to access the medicine they need to survive. Insurance companies pass on the costs of drugs to their patients via cost-sharing. Increases in cost-sharing are associated with more patients forgoing their medications, ultimately leading to more health risks. 

To reduce cost-sharing even further, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) should recommend insulin as a preventive service for the primary prevention of complications associated with living with diabetes. These complications include cardiovascular disease, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic ketoacidosis. Lower insulin costs can prevent these complications and any associated healthcare costs. The USPSTF has already designated statins and aspirins as preventive medications, thus giving precedent for nominating insulin as a preventive medication. There is substantial evidence supporting the use of insulin for diabetes management in insulin-dependent individuals, so the USPSTF needs to act on the momentum of insulin price reduction.

by Nolan Shah

Hormonal Birth Control, No Matter Which Kind, Linked to Breast Cancer, Study Finds

By Eileen Bailey, Healthline

It was already known that combination contraceptives slightly increased breast cancer risk, but now progestin-only contraception have been added to this list. A new study conducted by Oxford University researchers found that the risk of breast cancer is approximately the same for women who take combination contraceptives, which contain both the hormones estrogen and progestin, and women who take progestin-only contraceptives. 

Despite the worrisome headline, this research may actually be good news for women. The increased risk of breast cancer from hormonal contraception only occurs in about 0.5% of women. If patients decide they are willing to accept this small risk, they can now pick the hormonal contraceptive that works best for them, regardless of whether it is a combination or progestin-only contraception. 

Hormonal contraceptives can also help detect breast cancer earlier, according to Dr. Monte Swarup, an OB/GYN from Arizona interviewed by Healthline. Breast cancer tends to be detected earlier in women who take hormonal birth control. The theory is that hormones promote cancer growth, but do not promote cancer spread. This makes it easier to detect breast cancer through a physical exam or mammogram before tumors begin to spread to other areas of the body.

by  Gabrielle Stearns

Items contributed by: Rebecca Sugerman, Jordyn Rosenberg, Nolan Shah, and Gabrielle Stearns