Plan To Expand Child Tax Credit Offers Hope Along With Direct Payments

When her car started making a noise more than a year ago, Chinara Johnson parked the vehicle and hasn’t used it since. As a New Haven mother of 5-year-old twin boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and an 8-year-old daughter, Johnson doesn’t have the money to get the car running properly again. She also didn’t have money for childcare as she underwent breast cancer treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, and is now struggling with increased utility and food bills since the kids are home during the pandemic. Over the past few years, Johnson has not been eligible for federal child tax credits because she doesn’t make enough money. But under the American Family Act—sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and others—Johnson would qualify to receive direct payments of $3,600 each for the boys and $3,000 for her daughter in federal child tax credits.

Is Food Bank System Contributing To Health Disparities?

The nation’s food bank system, created to provide emergency food assistance, fills a chronic need. Still, it may be perpetuating obesity among those facing hunger, concludes a new report by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The jump in demand for food caused by the pandemic’s economic fallout amplifies the challenges facing those who serve the hungry. Directors of food banks hesitate to request that donors confine their tax-deductible contributions to healthy foods for fear of alienating them, Kristen Cooksey Stowers said in the report published in PLOS ONE. Stowers, assistant professor in the University of Connecticut’s Allied Health Services Department, concludes there are many opportunities to promote health equity among food pantry clients, particularly those from historically marginalized groups.

Pandemic Exposes Stark Health Disparities Generations In The Making

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 Coronavirus Spreads, Church Leaders Weigh The Needs Of Congregants

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 Young Children Missing Out On Vision Screenings

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.

Whites Living In Midsize Cities Report Poor Health Compared To Counterparts In Urban Centers, Survey Shows

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.

Dismal Maternal Mortality Rate Is Finally Getting Attention

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.

Food Pantries Urged To Stock Nutritious Foods To Encourage Healthy Eating

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.

ZIP Codes Show Connecticut’s Gaping Health Disparities

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.