Colleges statewide have taken steps to educate and raise awareness about monkeypox, a virus with over 21,900 cases nationally. At Wesleyan University, for example, an e-mail was sent to all students that provides links to the university’s health services website explaining the virus and how to access counseling and vaccines, if needed. Other colleges, such as Yale University, the University of Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University, have web pages dedicated to information on monkeypox. Nationally, there have been a handful of cases reported at various colleges, but none among Connecticut college students. Overall, as of Sept. 12, there were 21,985 cases of monkeypox reported in the U.S., and 113 cases in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and other states, students on some college campuses can purchase the “morning-after” pill from vending machines. But students in Connecticut don’t have that option because Connecticut is the only state that prohibits the sale of any over-the-counter medications in vending machines, according to the American Society for Emergency Contraceptives. The emergency contraceptive, commonly called Plan B, has been approved for purchase for those 15 and older without a prescription since 2013. Before that, a prescription was required for teenagers 17 and younger. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, there’s been a flurry of activity across the country to protect reproductive rights.
Poor nutrition, stress and a loss of physical activity when schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be worsening the problem of childhood obesity nationally and in Connecticut. Nationally, obesity among youth ages 2 to 19 increased from 19.3% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2020, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The same age group saw the rate of increase in their body mass index (BMI) double during the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The heaviest youths experienced the highest gains. In Connecticut, the obesity rate among ages 10 to 17 rose from 13.3% in 2018-19 to 15.3% in 2019-2020, according to the Johnson Foundation report.
New college safety data revealed a 29% decrease in all crimes reported across Connecticut’s 10 largest four-year undergraduate institutions from 2019 to 2020, including a 42% decrease in sexual offenses. This 29% decline marks the steepest drop in recent years. Between 2018 and 2019, reported crimes among the 10 largest universities decreased by 11% and sexual offenses decreased by 17%. University of Connecticut spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said that the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted the spring semester and moved classes online in March of 2020, can explain that year’s dip in crime. “The coronavirus pandemic significantly decreased the on-campus population at Storrs and the regional campuses for much of the 2020 calendar year, and the number of incidents reported during that period decreased as a result. Previous figures from 2019 and next year’s 2021 figures are expected to be more representative of a typical year,” Reitz wrote in a UConn press release.
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.