As scientists measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in the sludge flowing from New Haven sewage treatment plants, they’re also finding that our biological waste can tell them much more about our collective pathologies. Between March 19 and June 30, a group of scientists tested waste that had previously been used to detect COVID-19, looking for drugs and chemicals. The researchers found significant increases in three opioids, four antidepressants, and other chemicals in sludge from New Haven. The analysis, by scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) and Yale University, offered the first glimpses of how the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders affected people’s behavior. It also underscored how important human waste can be as a resource for understanding public health and society’s habits.
Leslie Radcliffe looks ahead to the planned reopening of Connecticut’s economy beginning on May 20 with a mix of hope and anxiety. Hope, because people in her working-class Hill neighborhood in New Haven will be able to return to work, but anxiety because she’s worried that the “reopening” won’t go smoothly. In particular, she is concerned about testing for coronavirus. Will there be enough testing so the disease won’t catch fire again and threaten the lives and livelihoods in her predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood? Radcliffe, an administrative assistant at Yale University, has been working from home, but last week she began driving her brother to his job at Costco.
The death rate from heart disease plummeted nationally over several decades for all racial and ethnic groups, but the rate of decline has slowed slightly and African Americans and low-income individuals are still at a higher risk of developing the disease and dying from it, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report isn’t surprising to Dr. Edward Schuster, medical director, Stamford Health Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. “In the United States, there’s a lot of talk about income disparity, which is a political hotcake,” Schuster said. “But what we are seeing is a life expectancy disparity. According to a recent Journal of American Medical Association, if you’re a man in the top 1 percent of income, you can expect to live 13 years longer than someone in the 1 percent at the bottom.”
Heart disease is largely preventable by maintaining a balanced diet, a healthy weight and moderate exercise, with only 20 percent of cases involving genetics, said Dr. David L. Katz, who heads the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, which works with communities to develop programs to control chronic diseases. But significant groups in lower income and urban areas don’t—or can’t—act on the message, Katz said.
In hospitals across Connecticut and nationwide, workarounds to compensate for medication shortages are daily routines for treating patients – and health experts say it’s not about to change any time soon. Some acute-care drugs in short supply nationally are antibiotics, antipsychotics, intravenous saline, and morphine, according to the most recent shortage list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In Connecticut, hospital officials say they are turning to alternative drugs, rationing supplies, or seeking new suppliers to work around the shortages. At St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Dr. C. Steven Wolf, chief of emergency medicine, said doctors most recently have been dealing with shortages of dextrose, used to treat dehydration and low blood sugar, as well as intravenous saline and other basic medications.
Health risks challenging veterans, particularly those who have recently returned home from combat, is one of the topics of an upcoming conference for consumers and health care providers. The conference, “Better Health: It’s Your Health, Take Charge,” will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Foxwoods Resort Casino. CT Partners for Health, a coalition of dozens of stakeholders working to help consumers better understand health care, is organizing the event. Conference breakout sessions will address a wide range of topics, including caring for veterans. That discussion will focus on the health-related challenges veterans face after they return from combat zones.
As glucose monitors, continuous ultrasound systems, Fitbits and other wearable technology become more prevalent, the devices are changing the way doctors care for their patients and the way patients care for themselves. Wearable technology is still evolving, but doctors already see the benefits, says Stephen Huot, a medical professor at Yale University. And while technology is not a substitute for doctor-patient conversations, “it could be game changing,” he says. A nationwide Pew Research Center survey in 2012 found that 69 percent of adults monitor at least one health indicator, such as weight, diet or exercise, and 21 percent said they used some form of technology to keep track. That number is projected to increase as wearable technology becomes more available.
The number of sexual assaults on Connecticut college campuses jumped 25 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year, newly released data show. Among 19 colleges and universities in the state, 104 assaults were reported last year, up from 83 in 2013. The data on assaults was provided by the colleges, as required under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. In 2013, the University of Connecticut in Storrs had the greatest number of reported sex assaults with 23, followed by Trinity College in Hartford with 21 and Yale University in New Haven with 12. Trinity had the highest rate of assaults, with 8.79 per 1,000 students. Connecticut College in New London ranked second, with a rate of 4.68 per 1,000 students.
Connecticut’s share of funding from the National Cancer Institute has dropped 19 percent since 2010 – a steeper decline than many other states, an analysis of National Institutes of Health (NIH) data show. Federal cancer institute funding to Connecticut fell to $33.4 million in 2014 – down from $41.1 million in 2010. The biggest grantee, Yale University, is receiving $7 million less from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the NIH’s most prominent centers. Overall, NIH research grants to Connecticut fell to $461.3 million – down from $484.4 million in 2010, NIH reports show. Most of that decline was in research awards to Yale, which dropped $25 million.
Everyone occasionally struggles to remember a name, blanks out on an appointment or forgets why they walked into the other room. But somewhere around age 40, those “senior moments” start to take on a new seriousness. They suddenly seem like scary signs of aging, perhaps harbingers of major memory loss to come. “A few years ago, these complaints were just dismissed,” says Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Now, researchers have become interested in mid-life memory, both to understand their patients’ complaints, and because of the recognition that the seeds of dementia are laid around this time of life.
When Connecticut’s new kindergarten class starts school in a few weeks, as many as a third of the children from the state’s poorest communities will be walking into their first classroom ever. Among their peers from the state’s richest areas, 97 percent will have attended preschool. It’s a persistent gap that can affect a child’s success through school and beyond, and it widened from 2011 to 2012, according to Connecticut Voices for Children. The percentage of kindergartners in poor communities who had attended preschool fell from 69.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 65.9 percent in 2011-12. For children in wealthy communities the percentage rose from 94.9 percent to 97.4 percent. And while the importance of kindergarten readiness is well known, child advocates are now pressing policymakers to recognize that the need for quality learning begins long before a child even reaches preschool age.