Soon after Minerva Cuapio, a 48-year-old Mexican immigrant who lives in New Haven, was laid off from her job at a dry cleaner in March, she developed a headache, an itchy throat and a dry cough. Then came the shortness of breath that really worried her daughter, Izarelli Mendieta, 29, of New Haven. While trying to get her mother care, she said, they were bounced from a doctor to the state’s COVID-19 hotline to a telemedicine visit back to the hotline and then to a drive-through testing center and an emergency room visit. The family waited nine days for Cuapio’s positive test results. Izarelli’s father, Pedro Mendieta, 55, who lost a foot to diabetes, tested positive, too, but had mild symptoms.
Minerva Cuapio and Pedro Mendieta have recovered, but their daughter, who translates for her parents because they only speak Spanish, said if she could meet Gov. Ned Lamont, she would ask him to make the process easier for families like hers.
As an ordained pastor, the Rev. Robyn Anderson will preach via the web Sunday, sharing a message of hope and healing with members of Blackwell AME Zion Church as her parishioners deal with the economic and personal toll brought on by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t want to panic. We want to be in prayer,” Anderson said this week as she prepared with a consortium of other African American and Latino ministers to bring web-based church services to their flocks—in some cases for the first time. “It’s a scary time for everyone. But it’s something that we know we will get through.”
As a licensed therapist and social worker and the director of the Ministerial Health Fellowship, Anderson will also be brainstorming ways to deal with the potential loss of health care due to lay-offs of congregants who are already at higher risk for diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and other chronic medical issues that make them more likely to have complications if they contract the coronavirus.
Nearly 40% of preschool-aged children nationwide have never had a vision screening, new data suggests, and there are disparities in who has been tested. During 2016 and 2017, only 63.5% of children 3 to 5 years old had their eyes tested by a doctor or other health professional, and whites were more likely to have been tested than blacks and Hispanics, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Childhood vision screenings can lead to early detection of vision disorders. The United States Preventative Service Task Force, an independent panel of experts, and the American Optometric Association recommend children in that age group have their eyes checked at least once, even if they’re asymptomatic and at low risk for problems.
“The purpose of a screening is to pick up any red flags, warning signs or risk factors for vision problems,” said Dr. Caroline DeBenedictis, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and an assistant professor at UConn School of Medicine. “Vision screening should be happening from the time [children] are born.”
Early detection plays a major role in improving outcomes, she added.
In West Haven, 24% of white residents reported their health as fair or poor, a rate worse than whites statewide and in New Haven. Fifty miles east, 19% of white New London residents reported feeling depressed or hopeless, higher numbers than statewide and in Bridgeport. And 39% of white New Britain residents reported that financially, they were just getting by or were worse off. That’s higher than in Hartford and statewide. A C-HIT analysis of the results from the recent DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey found that residents in a number of midsize, blue-collar cities reported lower health ratings than residents of the state’s largest cities.
Slowly—but perhaps surely—the country is beginning to address maternal mortality, both through legislation and through initiatives on the part of health care providers. This is critical. We have lost countless women to pregnancy and childbirth, and the majority of those deaths didn’t have to happen. This holds true especially for mothers of color. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from pregnancy as white women, according to a study released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People struggling with hunger suffer from a disproportionate number of chronic illnesses and often rely on food pantries for their groceries. So, pantries are now being urged to undergo a sea change and abandon their traditional emphasis on calories and nonperishable items in favor of more nutritional food. In Connecticut, 440,000 people are food insecure, which means they have limited or uncertain access to sufficient nutritious food, according to 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the latest available. They comprise 12.2 percent of the state’s population.People with food insecurity are 25 percent more likely to have heart disease and diabetes, and 50 percent more likely to have kidney disease, cites Feeding America, a national food bank network. “These issues can be prevented or managed better with a proper diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains,” said Michelle Lapine McCabe, director of the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development, based in Bridgeport.
When 9-year-old Jeremy Brown is in pain, it feels like he is being stabbed, while the pain experienced by Deborah Oliver, 40, is like a hundred simultaneous charley horses. Brown, of Bridgeport, and Oliver, of New Haven, have sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder that causes excruciating pain, life-threatening complications and a shortened life expectancy. Almost one-half of sickle cell patients die in their 40s. The disease affects some 100,000 Americans, about one in 365 African Americans and one out of 16,300 Hispanics; and in lesser numbers, people with Middle Eastern, Indian, Caribbean and Mediterranean ancestries. An estimated 2,000 people in Connecticut have SCD.
Depending on your ZIP code, Connecticut is a wonderful place to live. A recent United Health Foundation report said Connecticut ranks sixth in the nation for women and children’s health. The state scored high because of a low teen birth rate, as well as a high percentage of publicly funded women’s health services needs being met. But the state faces a yawning disparity of health status among residents—and its segregated towns. That’s significant because research shows that if you want to calculate your life expectancy, check your ZIP code and your median household income.
Connecticut has seen significant reductions in deaths from breast and colon cancer in the last three decades, but the state exceeds the national mortality rate for uterine cancer and three other cancers, as well as for mental health and substance use disorders. An analysis of data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published in JAMA, also shows wide disparities between Connecticut counties in death rates from certain cancers and other illnesses. Windham County had the highest mortality rates for seven of 10 cancers identified in the study as having the highest disease burden or responsiveness to screening and treatment, including pancreatic, uterine and lung cancer. Tolland County, meanwhile, had the lowest death rates for five cancers, including breast cancer, while Fairfield County was lowest for four. Similarly, deaths from chronic respiratory diseases in Windham County were nearly double the rate in Fairfield County – 63.13 per 100,000, compared to 34.15.
Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to get flu vaccines, have a preventive health care visit, or receive follow-up care after being hospitalized for a mental health disorder, according to a first-of-its kind federal report that looks at health disparities among people on Medicare Advantage plans. “While these data do not tell us why differences exist, they show where we have problems and can help spur efforts to understand what can be done to reduce or eliminate these differences, ” said Dr. Cara James, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health, which released the report. The report looks at 27 clinical care measures and eight patient experiences to gauge differences in treatment among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders. It has some bright spots: Blacks and Hispanics reported slightly better communication with doctors than whites did. Hispanics had higher rates than non-Hispanic whites of colorectal screenings, blood sugar testing for diabetes, and treatment for osteoporosis (among women) after a fracture.