When Laura Garcia was pregnant with her third child, a boy she named Matias, she had symptoms that made her uneasy. Her nails turned purple, her feet were swollen and she was vomiting. Undocumented and uninsured, she sought care in a community clinic. “They told me it’s normal,” said Garcia of Norwalk. But one day in her 39th week of pregnancy, as she returned home from work, she could no longer feel the baby moving.
Most Connecticut residents who carry a trait for sickle cell disease don’t know it, resulting in thousands of people unwittingly risking having a child born with the debilitating illness, according to sickle cell disease specialists. The reasons for this vary: there’s a lack of knowledge about results of newborn testing for the trait, parents don’t always convey test results to their children, gaps in state record keeping, and state records that identify people with the disease or trait only go back to 2012. Also, doctors typically only test for the trait when a patient requests it. And people often don’t know they can have the trait even when sickle cell disease isn’t in their family. Dr. Biree Andemariam, director of the New England Sickle Cell Institute at UConn Health, said physicians should include trait testing in routine exams. “It should be standard care,” she said.
Kamyle Dunn used to sleep with her hand resting on her mother’s chest so she could feel it expand and contract and know that her mom hadn’t stopped breathing during the night. Dunn’s mother, Maria Cotto, has long had severe asthma. Dunn inherited the condition, though she has mostly grown out of it as an adult. Now, Dunn’s 12-year-old son also has severe asthma. “People kind of shrug it off as not that big of a deal,” said Dunn, who lives with her family in East Harford. “But I see what it’s done to my mother, and I see what it’s doing to my son, and what it has done to me.”
In Connecticut, 10.6% of children and 10.5% of adults have asthma, according to state data from 2019. According to DataHaven’s 2021 Community Wellbeing survey, 12% of adults have asthma.
An abundance of healthy selections. Clearly marked nutrition labeling. The ability to pre-order. Fresh produce and meat. The 364,040 people in Connecticut who face hunger—one in every 10 residents—are increasingly likely to find these and other grocery store-like features at their local food pantries.
One by one, speakers lined up at a New Haven Board of Education meeting last fall to support a policy ensuring “the safety, comfort, and healthy development” of LGBTQ youths in school. Parents, teachers, advocates and students came forward, most with an anecdote and a plea: to protect children in New Haven schools who are bullied, unable to find safe bathrooms, and are referred to by the wrong pronouns—all because of their gender identity. Following the testimony, the school board unanimously approved the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth policy. Among other things, it grants students the right to change their name and gender identity on school records without parental permission; the right to be called by their preferred name and pronoun in school; the right to keep this information private without school staff telling parents or peers; access to gender-neutral bathrooms and more. By the end of the school year, what changes had the policy affected?
Joshalyn Mills of Branford and Nancy Witz of Kensington had the best possible results after being treated in clinical trials with immunotherapy drugs for aggressive breast cancer: Their tumors were eliminated. But while there are dramatic successes with immunotherapy drugs, there are also many failures, and researchers are trying to find out why in hopes of expanding the drugs’ effectiveness. Cutting-edge immunotherapy drugs use a person’s own immune system to fight disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the drugs in 2011 for cancer treatment. Success has occurred in about 15% to 20% of patients with cancers such as melanoma, lung, kidney and bladder, according to a report by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
After decades of inertia, Connecticut is finally moving to help its thousands of lead-poisoned children and prevent thousands of other young children from being damaged by the widespread neurotoxin. The state will direct most of its efforts — and most of $30 million in federal money — toward its cities, whose children have borne the brunt of this epidemic. In announcing the allocation recently, Gov. Ned Lamont pointed to lead’s “catastrophic” effects on children’s health and development, noting that lead poisoning is “a problem that impacts most deeply minority and disadvantaged communities of our state.” Nearly half of the 1,024 children reported as lead poisoned in 2020 lived in New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, or other cities, according to state Department of Public Health numbers. The more enduring thrust of the state’s new actions, however, is the strengthening of its outdated lead laws, starting in 2023.
Isolation and lack of social get-togethers during the pandemic took a toll on high school students nationally, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. The findings are based on anonymous online questionnaires taken during the first six months of 2021. About 7,700 high school students in grades 9-12, who attend 128 public and private schools, participated. According to the CDC survey results:
• More than a third (37%) of high school students said they experienced poor mental health. • About 44% said they felt sad or hopeless in the past year.
In the basement of Madry Temple Church in New London, Margaret Lancaster, a health program coordinator at Ledge Light Health District, shows the pastor how to administer Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal treatment. In New Haven, at the Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jerry Streets and local clinical staff are offering substance use disorder treatment. These alliances of frontline health care workers with trusted community leaders are addressing the alarming rise of substance use disorders by leveraging the cultural power of churches to reach people in need of help. Overdose mortality rates have risen among all races in Connecticut over the past three years. But the rise has been particularly marked among the Black population.
More than 1,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported poisoned by lead in 2020, according to a report released this week by the state Department of Public Health (DPH). Of the children tested that year, 649 were new cases. As has been the case for many years, nearly half of the 1,024 lead-poisoned children lived in the state’s cities. New Haven had the highest number of lead-poisoned children, with 171, followed by Bridgeport, 148; Waterbury, 81; Hartford, 71; and Meriden, 35. These five cities had 49% of all lead-poisoned children in Connecticut in 2020.