Physicians’ Biases, Lack Of Knowledge Are Partly To Blame For Health Care Disparities Among People With Disabilities

Jennifer Lortie is accustomed to facing obstacles to health care. The 37-year-old assistive technology specialist for United Cerebral Palsy of Eastern Connecticut has cerebral palsy. As she describes it, her condition, which resulted in quadriplegia, means “pretty decent use of my left arm, very limited [use] of right arm, and no use of my legs.”

Lortie has worn glasses since she was a young girl; when she was smaller, her father would carry her up the steps of the eye doctor’s office, which wasn’t handicap accessible. When that became unfeasible, she had to find another eye doctor. People with disabilities have long experienced inadequate access to health care.

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.

Medical Providers Are Taking Nature Therapy Seriously

Schools were closed and online learning was in full swing last March when a teenager and her mom arrived at Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven. The girl had been experiencing chest pains and her worried mother thought she should go to the emergency room, recalled Amanda E. DeCew, a Fair Haven clinic director and pediatric nurse. The girl “was spending her entire day inside and had been inside for like two weeks,” DeCew said. “But the more we got into her symptoms, the more I really felt like this was anxiety and nothing that she needed to go the emergency room for.”

But DeCew also knew that some kind of medical intervention was needed. “I’m going to write a park prescription for you,” she told the girl.

Education, Across All Demographics, Is An Effective Prescription To Combat Diabetes

Since Nydia Rodriguez met Wanda Santiago about a year ago, the New London resident has lost 20 pounds and gotten her Type 2 diabetes under control. That’s because Santiago, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s bilingual diabetes educator, has taught Rodriguez, a former nurse from Puerto Rico, about portion control, sugar substitutes and how to cut back on bread and pasta. Santiago, who was also a nurse in Puerto Rico, has even connected Rodriguez with food banks that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. “I talk to her almost every day,” Rodriguez, 64, said in Spanish, with her daughter Yolanda Mejias translating. “If I need anything, I’ll call her.”

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and the main cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult blindness.

Medical Practices Become Another Pandemic Casualty

After 35 years as an oral surgeon, Dr. Arthur Wilk closed his practice in Clinton following “daunting challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Darien, Dr. Cecile Windels sold her pediatric practice to a hospital health system after enduring significant income losses. They are among thousands of physicians and other health care professionals across the country who have made coronavirus-prompted career changes such as closing practices, joining larger health systems and retiring early.  The reasons for the moves vary from declines in income due to fewer inpatient visits to increased operational costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and fears of contracting the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Health care advocates say the changes will exacerbate physician shortages, further erode the existence of private practices, decrease patient choice of doctors and obstruct continuity of patient care. A January report in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal of health policy research, said: “Consolidation tends to lead to higher prices without strong evidence of quality improvements.”

“The national trends are definitely happening in Connecticut,” said Dr. Gregory Shangold, president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.

School-Based Health Centers Remain Vital Resource During Pandemic 

Thirteen-year-old Estrella Roman and her mother have made the 30-minute walk to Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury several times during the pandemic, even when the school has been closed for in-person learning. That’s because the school’s on-site health center is where Estrella, who emigrated with her family from Ecuador in 2019, receives routine vaccinations, wellness care, and treatment for headaches, among other health services. Estrella’s mother, Katherine, who doesn’t speak English, said through Estrella that she’s “very grateful” for the teachers who told her that Estrella could still receive care there even when schools were closed. She praised the school nurse as patient and Spanish-speaking and said she would not have known where to seek care if not for the school-based health center. During their three decades in operation, Connecticut’s school-based health centers – defined by the state as fully-licensed primary care facilities — have become a critical health care delivery option, especially for children who have limited access to regular medical care.

Flu Fighters Combat Vaccination Fears in New Haven

On a recent Friday evening, 30 men and women of color in and around New Haven converged on Zoom to share their thoughts about the flu vaccine. Most were apprehensive. Participants said they worried about contracting the flu from the vaccine, that the danger from the flu vaccine is far greater than catching the flu, and that people of color are again being experimented upon by the medical community. “Our trust levels are really low,” one woman at the online event said. “We think it’s just another way of getting to harm us even further.”

During the 2019-20 flu season in New Haven, more people of color than whites were hospitalized due to the flu: 35% of Black and 31% of Hispanic residents compared to 22% of white people, according to data from the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE).

Connecticut’s Halfhearted Battle: Response To Lead Poisoning Epidemic Lacks Urgency

It wasn’t until Bridgeport lead inspector Charles Tate stepped outside the house on Wood Avenue that he saw, immediately, where 2-year-old Rocio Valladares was being poisoned. The paint around a window at the back of the house was deteriorating. Beneath the window was Rocio’s favorite play area, a sloping basement door that was the perfect ramp for an energetic toddler. Next to the basement door was a patch of dirt where she loved to scratch with sticks. White chips of paint were visible in the dirt.

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.