A patch of dirt in the northwest corner of their back yard, bounded by a chain link fence, a stone wall and a garage that houses feral cats, has become a happy place for Gladis Castro, 57, and her daughter Carla, 27. The Danbury mother and daughter have found purpose and meaning, and built a strong relationship, in a simple garden that has connected them with nature, given them food and provided a diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic. Just being outdoors has become increasingly important to them in caring for their long-term respiratory effects from the virus. Inhaling the early-morning air while working in her garden often reminds Gladis Castro of Santa Isabel, her village in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. After a morning summer walk the two made smoothies with freshly picked red raspberries from their garden.
When the pandemic began, LaVita King of Bridgeport worried about how she would continue to see her behavioral health therapist and primary care physician at Southwest Community Health Center. She lives close enough to walk to the federally qualified health center but didn’t feel comfortable leaving her home in those early days, let alone venturing into a medical office. But she’s been able to access care through phone and video chats. “For me, it’s been such a lifesaver, such a blessing,” said King, 69. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to talk to my behavioral health therapist for this whole entire time.
The coronavirus has decimated many of the nation’s nursing homes, where elderly, chronically ill residents account for 64% of Connecticut’s death toll of 4,201 and rising. They are roughly 100 times more likely to die of the virus than other people in the state. So, the fact that some 41 of Connecticut’s 214 nursing homes have managed to keep out the virus, according to an analysis by C-HIT, is both remarkable and mystifying. Did they just get lucky? Administrators at several COVID-19-free facilities use the word “fortunate” to describe a situation they acknowledge could change at any time.
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.
Bit by bit, regulation by regulation, the Trump administration – followed by a notable list of states — has been shrinking women’s access to birth control and abortion services. From packing the courts with anti-choice judges to repeated (failed) attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the White House has done its best to push reproductive freedom off the table. So, when a Connecticut hospital and two neighborhood health centers announced plans to collaborate and become the New Haven Primary Care Consortium, the conversation quickly turned to women’s reproductive health—as it should. Yale New Haven Hospital and two local federally qualified health centers proposed to merge services recently, with the clinics that serve adults, women’s reproductive needs and children moving to 150 Sargent Drive (Long Wharf). This is a big deal for the state’s health care landscape.
A black patient hospitalized for chest pain in Connecticut is 20 percent more likely than a white patient to be readmitted within 30 days after discharge. Similarly, a Hispanic patient hospitalized for heart failure is 30 percent more likely to land back in the hospital within a month. Those disparities in two of the most common reasons for hospitalizations among state residents point to larger problems in access to care, underlying health status and insurance coverage, according to a study published today in Connecticut Medicine, the journal of the Connecticut State Medical Society. The society is hosting a forum today to discuss ways to reduce disparities in readmissions of patients with heart failure, chest pain and three other conditions: joint replacement surgery, digestive disorders and uncomplicated childbirth. “We’re seeing large disparities in readmissions for a number of conditions,” said Robert Aseltine, the study’s lead author and professor of behavioral science and community health at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
When Ulysses B. Hammond was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his first thought was that he could wait to deal with it. After all, the doctor said it would spread slowly. That reaction is typical for men – especially African Americans like Hammond — and it plays a role in explaining why they have the highest cancer death rate in the United States and in Connecticut. “It’s not deemed very macho to actually admit or discuss physical frailties,” said Hammond, chair of the board at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London. The death rate for African American men and women nationally – 207.7 per 100,000 people – is more than 20 percent higher than the rate for whites, according to 2009 data, the latest from the National Cancer Institute.