ROME — Pope Francis is offering Brazilians a message of hope and consolation amid soaring coronavirus deaths and infections in the country suffering “one of the most difficult tests in its history.”

In a video message to a conference of Brazilian bishops on Thursday, Francis says he was particularly praying for Brazilians who had lost loved ones to the pandemic.

“Young and old, parents, doctors and volunteers, sacred ministers, rich and poor: the pandemic has spared no one in its wake of suffering.” He says it was particularly tragic families couldn’t say goodbye to their loved ones: “This leaving without being able to say goodbye, leaving in this stripped-down solitude, is one of the greatest pains for those who leave and those who remain.”

Brazil trails only the United States in the official COVID-19 death toll, recording 361,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. Public health experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro for refusing to enact strict measures to halt infections and for clashing with governors and mayors who did.

— WHO: Europe surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths

— Iran finalizes deal for 60M doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

— Africa CDC urges India to lift COVID vaccine export limits

— India skyrockets past 14M virus cases; 200,000 new infections in 1 day

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at and


STOCKHOLM — Health authorities in Sweden say the coronavirus situation in the country is “serious” and hospitals have quickly filled with patients nationwide.

Sweden reported more than 7,000 new coronavirus cases and 41 deaths in the past 24 hours. Britta Bjorkholm of the Public Health Agency of Sweden says, “now is the time to start following recommendations.”

Some 400 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated at intensive care units in hospitals. Bjorkholm says there’s an increasing number of cases detected in children and young people in Sweden. But she stressed it’s likely from improved testing procedures rather than an emerging trend.

She says recent studies showed the quickly spreading virus variant first detected in Britain “doesn’t seem to increase the risk of serious illness in children and young people.”

Despite a Europe-wide delay in the launch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Sweden is sticking to its target of all adult Swedes getting at least one vaccination shot by Aug. 15. Sweden has totaled more than 892,000 coronavirus cases and 13,761 confirmed deaths.

TORONTO — Ontario reported a record 4,736 coronavirus infections on Thursday.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the number includes 1,188 new cases in Toronto, the country’s largest city. There were 29 reported deaths.

There are 1,932 people hospitalized in Ontario with COVID-19, and 659 patients in intensive care and 419 on a ventilator.

Canada is dealing with a third wave of infections, likely fueled by variants, health officials say. Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada, but a delay in reapplying restrictions has led to a surge in Ontario.

The Ontario government says a field hospital in the parking lot of a Toronto hospital could be activated later this month as it grapples with rising hospitalizations caused by the virus.

TIRANA, Albania — Albania will receive a second batch of AstraZeneca vaccines this weekend.

Prime Minister Edi Rama says the country is expecting 90,800 AstraZeneca vaccines. The first batch of 38,000 arrived a month ago.

“There have been no problems with that, according to the immunization commission,” said Health Ministry spokeswoman Etiola Kola Nallbani. “Albania will continue vaccination with AZ.”

Albania has vaccinated some 300,000 people, starting with the medical personnel, elderly and schoolteachers. The goal is half a million people vaccinated ahead of the summer tourism season.

The new arrival will be available to the tourism industry staff of hotels and restaurants, according to Minister Ogerta Manastirliu.

The government has received about 400,000 doses so far out of 2.6 million contracted by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Sputnik V. Albania has registered 128,959 coronavirus cases and 2,331 confirmed deaths.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday that Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, says the contract for enough vaccines to inoculate 30 million people was “signed and finalized.” Jalali says Iran will receive the vaccines by the end of the year.

Iran began a 10-day lockdown Saturday amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Authorities ordered most shops closed and offices restricted to one-third capacity in cities declared as “red zones,” with the highest infection rates. Over 85% of the country is either a red or orange zone.

Only some 200,000 doses have been administered in the country of 84 million, according to the World Health Organization. COVAX, an international collaboration to deliver the vaccine equitably across the world, delivered its first shipment to Iran on Monday from the Netherlands, containing 700,000 AstraZeneca doses.

Earlier this year, Iran started its vaccine program with a limited number of Russian Sputnik V vaccine doses going to medical workers.

NEW DELHI — India’s two largest cities have imposed stringent restrictions on movement and one planned to use hotels and banquet halls to treat coronavirus patients.

New Delhi announced stay-at-home orders for the weekend. The moves in the capital came after similar measures were imposed in the financial capital of Mumbai.

Those moves came as daily infections in the country shot past 200,000 Thursday amid a devastating surge that is straining a fragile health system. The soaring cases and deaths have forced India to delay exports of vaccines to other countries.

“The surge is alarming,” says S.K. Sarin, a government health expert in New Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s top elected official, says despite rise in infections, 5,000 hospital beds are still available in the capital and added capacity. Still, more than a dozen hotels and wedding banquet halls were ordered to convert into COVID-19 centers where doctors from nearby hospitals will treat the moderately ill.

GENEVA — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has kicked off an appeal to other countries to help inject $2 billion more to the U.N.-backed program to ship coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.

The United States is co-hosting a pledging and donor conference Thursday, bringing together four presidents, three prime ministers and other dignitaries to help buttress the $6.3 billion already raised for the U.N.-backed COVAX program.

Blinken laid out a goal to raise COVAX’s target of vaccinating 20% of populations in the affected countries to 30%, with the addition of $2 billion in funds. The COVAX effort has been providing millions of vaccine doses to 92 of the world’s poorest countries.

“We recognize that as long as COVID is spreading and replicating anywhere, it poses a threat to people everywhere,” Blinken says.

Donors were expected to chip in either funds — prime minister Stefan Lofven announced Sweden was increasing its contribution to COVAX from $20 million to $280 million — or announce plans to share doses with the low- and middle-income countries.

Blinken highlighted the Biden administration’s contribution of $2 billion to COVAX in March and its plans to add another $2 billion through 2022.

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The death toll from coronavirus in Bangladesh crossed 10,000 on Thursday.

The country’s health facilities are struggling to cope with the increased demands for hospital beds for the critical patients. There were more than 4,000 confirmed cases and 94 deaths reported in the last day.

Officials say new strains of the virus were spreading quickly, prompting the government to enforce a nationwide lockdown. They say the number of daily cases has increased seven-fold in a month while the number of deaths has doubled in recent weeks.

Dr. A.S.M. Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told The Associated Press the deaths could worsen in coming weeks. Authorities say Bangladesh, a nation of more than 160 million people, has only 825 Intensive Care Unit beds for the critical patients in both government and private hospitals.

Total cases have increased to more than 707,000 and more than 10,000 confirmed deaths, according to the Ministry of Health Affairs.

BERLIN — The head of Germany’s disease control agency has warned that the situation in some of the country’s hospitals is “dramatic” in the need for treatment for COVID-19.

The Robert Koch Instiute reported 29,425 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past day and 293 deaths.

Lothar Wieler, who heads the Robert Koch Institute, says clinics in some cities and counties have already run out of intensive care beds. He says many of those requiring treatment are young adults.

Meanwhile, German set a record for COVID-19 vaccinations in a single day with nearly 740,000 on Wednesday, the Health Ministry says. The upswing began last week with the start of vaccinations in doctor’s offices.

Germany has recorded nearly 3.1 million cases of the coronavirus and nearly 80,000 confirmed deaths.

BUDAPEST — A Hungarian minister dismissed concerns over the effectiveness of a Chinese-produced COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, claiming it provided better protection from coronavirus than some Western shots without providing any evidence.

Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told an online press briefing that all six vaccines currently in use in Hungary are “reliable and effective,” and there is no need to provide a third dose of a jab produced by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.

Hungary is the only country in the European Union to have approved the Sinopharm vaccine and has already received more than 1 million of the 5 million doses it ordered. Prime Minister Viktor Orban received the first of the two-dose shot in February, saying he trusted it the most.

But the distributor in the United Arab Emirates began offering a third dose of the vaccine to a small number of people in March, saying it had not produced enough protective antibodies in some cases.

Concerns over the effectiveness of the vaccine were further heightened on the weekend when China’s top disease control official said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus. Gao Fu later told The Associated Press that his words had been misinterpreted, and he was speaking about the effectiveness rates for “vaccines in the world, not particularly for China.”

GENEVA — A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19.

Dr. Hans Kluge says the situation remains “serious” with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the 53 countries that make up its European region.

Addressing recent concerns about vaccines, Kluge says the risk of people suffering blood clots is far higher for people with COVID-19 than people who receive AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

Kluge pointed to “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries” and cited “declining incidence” among the oldest people. He says the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among people over 80, who have been prioritized for vaccines, had dropped to nearly 30%.

Worldwide, a tally by Johns Hopkins University shows nearly 3 million deaths have been linked to COVID-19 — with the Americas hardest hit, followed by Europe. The United States, Brazil and Mexico have reported the highest number of deaths, collectively, at more than 1.1 million.

TOKYO — Japan’s western metropolis of Osaka reported a record 1,208 new coronavirus cases.

Tokyo reported a two-month high of 729 daily cases. A virus alert status began in Tokyo on Monday, allowing the authorities to issue binding orders for shorter hours at bars and restaurants.

Osaka and four other prefectures are also on alert, and the government is expected to add a few more areas for the elevated measures Friday.

The rapid resurgence in Japan comes less than three months before the Olympics. On Thursday, a top ruling party official suggested an option of canceling the Olympics if the infections make it impossible.

Officials are concerned that the sense of urgency is not shared by the people. Experts on a Tokyo metropolitan government taskforce warned that the new variant could replace the conventional coronavirus virus and trigger more infections by early May.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, head of a government taskforce, urged municipal leaders to take action quickly to curb the spread of the infections. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged the residents to take maximum protection and asked non-Tokyo residents, except for essential workers, not to visit the area. She also asked the people to avoid traveling during the upcoming “Golden week” holidays beginning at the end of April.

Overall, Japan added 4,300 new cases Wednesday for a total of about half a million and 9,500 confirmed deaths.

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has announced it will begin packing and later producing Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which would make it the first European state outside Russia and Belarus to begin manufacturing the jab.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday visited an institute in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where he said the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in a “few months.” He said for now, the vaccine will be packed in Belgrade after receiving its components from Russia.

Although the European Union drug regulator, EMA, has not yet approved Sputnik V, the vaccine has been registered for use in dozens of countries worldwide.

Serbia has one of the highest inoculation rates in Europe, mainly thanks to the government’s large purchases of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and the Sputnik V vaccine. The country also is administering the vaccines developed by Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Serbia also plans to start producing the Sinopharm vaccine.

PARIS — France is expected Thursday to pass the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, after a year of hospital tensions, on-and-off lockdowns and personal loss that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic’s unending, devastating toll.

The country of 67 million will be the eighth in the world to reach the symbolic mark, and the third in Europe after the United Kingdom and Italy.

The cumulative death toll since the start of the epidemic totaled 99,777 on Wednesday. In recent days, French health authorities have been reporting about 300 new daily deaths from COVID-19.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Africa CDC director says he hopes India will lift export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible.

John Nkengasong spoke as the African continent of 1.3 billion people doesn’t know when second doses of key vaccines will arrive and India experiences a resurgence in infections. The country is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative that aims to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“If you finish vaccinating your people before Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself any justice because variants will emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts,“ Nkengasong said.

He said the uncertainty around the arrival of second doses puts the African continent in a “very dicey situation.”

African officials aim to vaccinate 750 million people over the next two years. Just under 14 million vaccine doses have been administered across the 54 countries.

BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand’s coronavirus cases surpassed 1,500 on Thursday to set another record, sparking concerns the country’s outbreak may spiral out of hand.

More than 8,000 cases have been recorded since April 1 in a fresh outbreak linked to nightclubs and bars in central Bangkok. The 1,543 new cases pushes the country’s tally to 37,543, with 97 deaths.

Dr. Chawetsan Namwat from the Department of Disease Control said the outbreak appeared to have spread beyond entertainment venues with new cases now linked to seminars, office meetings and student field trips.

He said the National Infection Control Committee will meet later Thursday to discuss new measures. Up to 6,000 hospital beds will be added in Bangkok.

Mass travel for the Thai new year holiday this week is fueling the surge, said Dr. Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department. More worrying is that infections include a more contagious variant of the virus first found in the U.K.

The outbreak as added pressure on the government to speed up its slow vaccination drive, which has seen less than 1% of its population inoculated.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source link

For 35 weeks, Tomeka Isaac had a normal pregnancy. 

As a 40-year-old Black woman, she was at high risk for preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure that can cause organ damage. But she diligently went to every doctor’s appointment, and to her relief, was told her blood pressure was fine. 

“My baby Jace was amazing to carry,” she said. “Every appointment I was fine, he was fine, and I didn’t have morning sickness my whole pregnancy.”

Then, on a Mother’s Day weekend visit to her in-laws’ house, she collapsed. 

She was rushed to a small hospital in Pineville, North Carolina. Her son had died in utero, an employee told her bluntly.

“Just like point-blank, period, kind of like, ‘I have other things to do, but here’s this,’” Isaac said. “Me and my husband, we were devastated.” 

It was only then that doctors informed her she’d developed a rare, life-threatening condition that causes bleeding, liver damage, and sometimes, loss of pregnancy. 

Isaac was told she would need to deliver her stillborn baby at another nearby hospital. But upon arrival several hours later, she was hustled into emergency surgery due to her pregnancy-related complication. It would be one of seven operations, in what became a 45-day hospital stay as doctors fought to save her life.

“They told my husband, ‘We’ve thrown everything at her but the kitchen sink, and we don’t know if she’ll survive,’” Isaac recalled. 

Isaac “coded” – meaning that doctors had to haul her back from the edge of death – not once, but three times. 

“When I got out of the hospital, I just started reeling, like how did we even get here, what happened? Everything was going so well … and then it wasn’t.”

In North Carolina, Black women and childbearing people are more than two and a half times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. With Isaac in support, a sweeping new bill package in the North Carolina General Assembly, collectively known as the “North Carolina Momnibus Act,” aims to combat these disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality among Black mothers planning to give birth.

Bias kills

Companion bills were proposed in both the Senate and the House in early April. The identical bills aim to address not only so-called social determinants of health that increase the risk of pregnancy-related complications among expectant Black parents but also the implicit bias in health care professionals long believed to play a role in their disparate mortality rates.

“I want people to understand that implicit bias kills people,” said Isaac.

Black women and childbearing people are three to four times as likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white people nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These trends bear out regardless of socioeconomic status or education level—a Black person with a college degree is five times as likely to die in childbirth than a white counterpart—suggesting implicit bias in the health care system may play a role.

Isaac, who said she regularly attended all her check-ups and appointments throughout her pregnancy with Jace, had been suffering from a condition known as hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome. HELLP syndrome is considered a variant of preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication that Black people are 60 percent more likely to develop than white people. 

The condition can be hard to identify, particularly if protein doesn’t show up in a pregnant person’s urine. 

But Isaac said her doctors never took urine samples during her regular check-ups — a practice that, a friend later told her, is standard for pregnancy-related doctor’s visits.

“This was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know that was a thing. I looked at my medical records, and they had not done a urine sample on me since they verified my pregnancy,” she alleged. “Even though they said that I was high-risk for preeclampsia, even though that’s standard care.”

HELLP has a 30 percent mortality rate for expecting parents, and without intervention, has a higher rate of stillbirth death than both severe preeclampsia and eclampsia.

“It’s absolutely possible Jace would be alive [had they found this earlier],” Isaac said. “Sixty percent of maternal deaths in the United States are preventable. And it’s just things like this, it’s somebody not doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Doulas can fill the gap

The new legislation would establish an evidence-based implicit bias training program for all health care professionals involved in perinatal care.

Any health practitioner with a license, registration, accreditation or certification would be required to take the training in order to renew their license and continue practicing in the state of North Carolina.

The bills would also establish a “Maternal Mortality Prevention” grant program for community organizations already working to combat maternal mortality in Black people.

The program would award five grants of anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000 annually, with special preference given to Black women-led organizations that provide resources aligned with evidence-based practices for improving maternal health outcomes – including those that connect doulas to pregnant Black community members.

“When I first heard about the high infant and maternal mortality rate for women of color in 2015, it struck a kind of a nerve,” said Cindy McMillan, an Asheville resident. “I myself had a really bad first pregnancy where I almost died, and lost my son shortly after childbirth. I actually almost died a second time with my twins. My story is, for me, traumatic, because of the things that I went through.”

Today, she works with SistasCaring4Sistas, a women-of-color-led doula collective that provides free services to pregnant Black women in western North Carolina.

“When you think about our experiences, the common denominator with all of us is we said something, and we weren’t heard [by providers],” said McMillan. “Doing this work, we understand that there’s procedures, medically, that we may not be familiar with.

“We’ve also supported white women who they give those explanations to, and they’ll break it down to the smallest denominator to make sure they understand,” she added. “And those are not the same privileges we as Black women have been given.”

Evidence suggests birth doulas may help combat some of the risk factors associated with maternal mortality. People who are supported by a doula when giving birth are significantly less likely to need a cesarean section, which Black people experience at higher rates than all other racial groups. They can also serve as an advocate, a second set of eyes, and a birthing resource.

“We all have had adverse maternal experiences,” said Wakina Norris, another doula in the collective, which works in partnership with Mountain Area Health Education Center and Mothering Asheville. “I hear other people’s stories and mine may not have ended in death, but it was traumatic and close enough.” 

“We want to be there to make sure they get the same treatment as anyone else that doctors and nurses will support, whether they have the same pregnancy conditions, whether it’s preeclampsia, whether it’s diabetes, whether it’s medical induction that needs to happen,” said McMillan. “We’re right there with them, the whole process.”

Doulas can be expensive, though, she said, and accessing a doula who can provide culturally appropriate support free of bias can be challenging

Community-based programs like SistasCaring4Sistas, founded in 2016, help fill in the gaps.

“When we found out what doula work was, we were like, wow, there’s really a profession out where a person can actually be there to support you, emotionally, physically, provide information-based advocacy,” McMillan said. “Our community had not had any access to it. It kind of was upsetting because it could have actually saved or supported so many other women, including ourselves”

In addition to funding community organizations, the Momnibus legislation would create a task force to study and issue recommendations for funding to address “social determinants of health,” nonclinical factors that impact health such as poverty, education, health care access and systemic racism. 

This “Social Determinants of Maternal Health Task Force” would be under the Department of Health and Human Services, and consist of state agency leaders, people with lived experience of loss of a family member due to maternal mortality, patients who have suffered maternal morbidity, maternal health workers, and leaders from community organizations that address maternal mortality with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities.

The Momnibus Act also includes provisions for funding for DHHS to study issues affecting new moms serving in the military, and the impact of pandemics on pregnant people.

“I’ve been talking to a number of my constituents that just don’t feel that they’re getting the support they need, particularly as first-time mothers during this pandemic and so we really wanted that provision to be in there as well,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham), one of the sponsors of the Senate bill and herself a Black woman of childbearing age.

“I’ve had more friends than I can count quite frankly that have had difficulty with childbirth, either there were issues that were ignored or weren’t taken seriously by their doctors, or they just didn’t feel that they have the support they needed,” Murdock said.

Source link

Anthem has partnered with digital health startup K Health and funds managed by investment firm Blackstone to launch a technology-focused joint venture.

The financial terms of the venture launch were not disclosed.

Called Hydrogen Health, the joint venture will bring K Health’s artificial intelligence-driven technology to the consumer, employer and insurer markets, said K Health CEO Allon Bloch, in a phone interview. Bloch will also serve as CEO of Hydrogen Health.

New York City-based K Health provides a symptom checker capability that leverages AI to give users information about their health. Initially, the technology offered a free application with the aim of combating the often inconsistent and inaccurate health information available online.

Then, two years ago, K Health added a service layer, where, for a fee, users can connect with a medical professional.

“You get medical advice, you get diagnoses, you get treatment, you get prescriptions, you get labs,” Bloch said.

In 2019, Indianapolis-based Anthem and K Health struck a partnership where they launched a co-branded app to help Anthem members understand their symptoms and allow them to message doctors.

“Our stakeholders expect us to find innovative solutions to increase access to high-quality care, enhance the healthcare experience, and help lower costs,” said Amy Mulderry, senior vice president and chief development officer at Anthem, in an email. “As part of this approach, we focus on investments and partnerships like this one that leverage exponential technologies, such as artificial intelligence.”

Now, through Hydrogen Health, the companies are offering those digital health capabilities to consumers, employers and other insurers. The solution — which will focus on providing access to primary care — can be offered as part of customers’ own platforms or via K Health’s standalone app.

Further, the technology can be integrated across different health plans.

Anthem’s involvement brings both funding and a wealth of healthcare industry knowledge to the new venture, K Health’s Bloch said.

“They’ve got 43 million members across multiple segments,” he said. “They’ve got tremendous know-how around how to offer medical networks — from a claims perspective, from a care navigation perspective — to different segments.”

Together, Anthem, K Health and Blackstone hope to be able to offer technology that can simplify healthcare access and help reduce costs, Bloch said.

A little over three months into 2021 and K Health is already having a busy year. In January, the company announced it had raised $132 million in funding, which will be used to expand its platform for pediatric patients.

Photo: diego_cervo, Getty Images





Source link

For the sixth consecutive year, reported cases of the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the U.S. hit an all-time high in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report this week.

“Less than 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates in the U.S. were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and advances in chlamydia diagnostics made it easier to detect infections. That progress has been lost, due in part to challenges to our public health system,” Raul Romaguera, acting director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, wrote in an announcement accompanying the report.

According to the report, the U.S. has seen a nearly 20% increase since 2015 in chlamydia cases, which totaled more than 1.8 million in 2019. Additionally, gonorrhea cases have increased by more than 50% since 2015 to over 616,000 cases in 2019. And there were nearly 130,000 cases of syphilis in the U.S. in 2019, marking an increase of more than 70% since 2015.

Together, those STDs accounted for approximately 2.6 million cases in 2019, up from approximately 2.5 million in 2018.

Concerningly, congenital syphilis – which is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy – has increased by 279% since 2015. In 2019, 128 infants died of congenital syphilis, and there were nearly 2,000 reported cases.

The report additionally notes significant disparities in the rates of reported STDs, with more than 55% of reported cases in 2019 occurring among adolescents and young adults 15 to 24 years old.

Meanwhile, approximately 31% of chlamydia, gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis cases were among non-Hispanic Black individuals, although they accounted for only 12.5% of the U.S. population, according to the report. Men who have sex with other men were also disproportionately impacted by STDs, the report says.

These disparities likely aren’t caused by differences in sexual behavior, but “rather reflect differential access to quality sexual health care, as well as differences in sexual network characteristics,” the report says.

“For example, in communities with higher prevalence of STDs, with each sexual encounter, people face a greater chance of encountering an infected partner than those in lower prevalence settings do, regardless of similar sexual behavior patterns,” the report says. “Acknowledging inequities in STD rates is a critical first step toward empowering affected groups and the public health community to collaborate in addressing systemic inequities in the burden of disease – with the ultimate goal of minimizing the health impacts of STDs on individuals and populations.”

While the report focuses on 2019, Romaguera said preliminary data for 2020 indicates the continuation of “concerning trends” last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have noted the pandemic caused disruptions to services aimed at curbing sexually transmitted infections.

Romaguera said there’s momentum to change the alarming rates of STDs, however, pointing to a roadmap from the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at curbing new sexually transmitted infections through strategies employed by stakeholders including public health officials, government and community-based organizations.

“We must prioritize and focus our efforts to regain this lost ground and control the spread of STDs,” Romaguera said in a release.

Source link

In the words of his wife, Candice, the late Chris Sauerwein was a true hero.

Because after his passing, Chris gave hope and new life to four others through the work of CORE — the Center for Organ Replacement & Education. His last heroic act was to donate to those in need.

On July 4, 2020, the 35-year-old from Coalton was in an auto accident near Canonsburg, Pa.

When his wife received the phone call, she was told her husband was in very critical condition and he was life-flighted to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“I was told to get there as quick as possible. I had my son and daughter in the car as we rushed to Pittsburgh. I was thinking this is not possible,” Candice said, “I told the children that we are going to pray that he is going to be alright.”

When they arrived at the hospital, Candice was told the unbearable news. Chris had suffered a serious brain injury, and, unfortunately, nothing else could be done.

“We spent time with him while we waited for tests to be completed. We prayed and poured out our hearts to him. You don’t want to believe it is real,” Candice recalled. “Soon, the doctor came to us. I will never forget the doctor’s voice. She told us that my husband had suffered brain death.”

The family met with Elissa McQuillan from CORE. Candice said she was so empathetic that before McQuillan asked the question, Candice knew what she was going to request.

“I cut her off in mid-sentence and said the answer is ‘Yes.’ We will donate his organs,” she said.

Chris and Candice had spoken about organ donation before his passing. Chris told his wife that if there was anything that could be done to prevent another family from feeling pain and sadness, he wanted to help them.

“After his passing, CORE did so many things to help us cherish him. Elissa recorded my husband’s heartbeat; she printed off EKGs strips; and she made molds of his handprints. They gave us a blanket, which my daughter has slept with every single night since she received it. She has received so much comfort from that blanket,” Candice said.

Candice even became a CORE volunteer and made a blanket with her daughter for another family.

“With organ donation, my husband saved four people. He was able to give them the great gift of life. I am in contact with one of those recipients, and it is like talking to a little piece of my husband. He reminds me that my husband is a hero. In this tragedy, you gain hope and you gain a new best friend. It keeps us connected to my husband. I find comfort in knowing that is what he would want. He provided life for four other people. Our hero is living on. Organ donation gave him a beautiful legacy of life — this champ is still here,” Candice said.

The hospitals of the Mon Health System collaborate with CORE to provide hope for organ recipients and make a difference every day in patients’ lives.

Mon Health encourages the public to find out more about donating life. For more information or to register as an organ donor, visit or call 1-800-DONORS-7.

Source link

Queensland’s public hospitals are owed $44 million in unpaid patient bills, primarily from Medicare-ineligible patients such as international travellers.

The debt burden has prompted the state’s largest hospital and health service (HHS), Metro North, to contract out for debt collection services.

Metro North includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Prince Charles, Redcliffe and Caboolture hospitals, and is owed $19.2 million.

Metro South, which covers the Princess Alexandra, QEII Jubilee, Logan, Redland and Beaudesert hospitals, is owed $7.9 million.

The Gold Coast HHS is owed $5.6 million and Cairns HHS $2.6 million.

In late 2018, The Australian reported that Queensland’s Medicare-ineligible patient debt burden was just $11 million.

A NSW Auditor-General report from November 2019 found NSW Health had $64 million in unpaid medical bills and wrote off $20 million as unrecoverable.

No patient turned away

A Queensland Health spokesperson said patient care was its top priority and no-one would be turned away from a public hospital, regardless of their health insurance situation.

“Patients that do not hold Medicare entitlements are classified as Medicare ineligible and are responsible for fees that relate to their treatment in Queensland public hospitals,” the spokesperson said.

Metro North HHS, which includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, is owed $19 million.(

ABC News: Julie Hornsey


For Medicare-ineligible patients, an overnight stay in a Queensland public hospital might cost upward of $2,300.

An emergency room visit for a category one patient — meaning a life-threatening situation that requires medical attention within 2 minutes – will cost $1,378.

In Tasmania, an overnight stay could cost about $2,500, while in Victoria’s Royal Melbourne Hospital an overnight stay would cost upward of $1,800.

Debt recovery contracts

Last year, Metro North went out to tender for debt recovery services at an estimated cost of $7 million.

It signed two contracts, one for $6.7 million with South Australia-based payment solutions company AusHealth Hospitals, and the other with Victorian debt collection company ICM Partnership for $190,000.

A Metro North spokesperson said Medicare-ineligible patients who did not have private insurance were advised of their likely fees and “supported to make arrangements and in navigating the complexities of the Australian health system”.

“As a result, Metro North Health, like other hospital and health services, outsources debt recovery in instances where they do not have the jurisdiction or capability to recover money from overseas.

“This is often from travel insurance companies but may include personal recovery.”

Australia has reciprocal healthcare provision agreements with 11 countries, including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and Sweden.

Source link

TUESDAY, April 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Taking a deep dive into how Americans eat, a new dietary analysis finds that no matter where people get their food, bad nutrition rules the day, with one key exception: schools.

The conclusion is based on surveys conducted among 61,000 adults and children between 2003 and 2018. Respondents’ answers revealed that the quality of much of the food they’ve been getting from restaurants, grocery stores, work sites, entertainment venues and food trucks has remained consistently poor over the years.

But a very different picture has been unfolding in American schools. During the study period, children have seen the poor nutritional content of their in-school meals (as a percentage of all school-based food on offer) drop by more than half, down from 57% to just 24%.

“That is a very notable finding from our study,” said lead author Junxiu Liu, an assistant professor in the department of population health science and policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. (During the study, Liu was a postdoctoral student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston).

“Across all groups and income levels, the nutritional quality of meals and snacks eaten at school improved dramatically over the study period,” she noted.

Not coincidentally, Liu stressed, that study period coincided with the passage of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” in 2010, an Obama administration effort to set higher national nutritional standards in schools across the nation.

And the result, said Liu, is that “school is the healthiest place for Americans to eat right now.”

The problem? On average, school meals account for only 9% of all the food a child gets over the course of a year, according to the researchers.

In total, nearly 21,000 children (aged 5 to 19) and almost 40,000 adults (average age of 47) participated in eight successive National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys spanning 16 years. The surveys analyzed actual food consumed, not simply what was available for purchase.

Some small but positive trends were identified. For example, the percentage of nutritionally poor foods purchased at grocery stores dropped a bit over the years, from 40% to 33% among adults, and from 53% to 45% among children. Roughly two-thirds of all food consumed by both adults and children is now sourced from a grocery store.

However, good news was in short supply at the nation’s restaurants, which supply roughly a fifth of all adult and child calories consumed. More than two-thirds of the food adults consumed at restaurants remained consistently bad over the study period. And the bad diet picture was even worse among children at restaurants, where poor nutrition accounted for 85% at the study launch and only dipped to 80% by the end.

At work sites, adults fared no better, with bad food accounting for 56% of consumption in 2003, only dropping to 51% by 2018. And the pooled trend regarding all other food sources actually got worse with time, with adults and children seeing poor food proportions rise from 34% to 44% and 40% to 52%, respectively.

The story is even bleaker when seen through the prism of race, income and education. For instance, the team found that white, wealthy, and better-educated Americans are more likely to be getting increasingly nutritious foods in grocery stores than their Black, Hispanic, poorer and less well-educated peers.

That is not the case in schools, however, where dramatic improvements in food quality were seen across the board. Liu attributed the upswing to increased access to whole grains, fruits, greens and beans, and lower exposure to sugary drinks, refined grains, added sugar and saturated fat.

But the authors pointed out that impediments to accessing school meals during the pandemic likely pose a bigger threat to the nutritional welfare of poor and minority children than to kids who can access healthier food elsewhere.

“Recent disruptions in supply chains and food security due to COVID-19 further amplify the importance of understanding how nutritional quality may vary from different food sources and for different population subgroups,” said Liu.

Liu and her colleagues published their findings April 12 in JAMA Network Open.

The findings come as little surprise to Lona Sandon, program director and assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition with the school of health professions at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. But she said a lot can be done to try and “change the environment.”

For example, Sandon stressed the need for continued nutrition education and public health messaging; promotion of broader insurance coverage for nutritional counseling and nutrition checkups; expansion of menu labeling requirements; establishment of workplace wellness policies and healthier food choices; and making “basic nutrition a required science class in high school.”

More information

There’s more on nutrition at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Junxiu Liu, PhD, assistant professor, department of population health science and policy, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City; Lona Sandon, PhD, MEd, RDN, LD, program director and assistant professor, department of clinical nutrition, School of Health Professions, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; JAMA Network Open, April 12, 2021

Source link

Public contracts worth billions of pounds to provide vital services shouldn’t be an area where mystery abounds.

Yet in the Why-did-Guy’s-and-friends-give-£15m-to-Serco? case, mystery abounds.

Back in the noughties, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital foundation trusts formed Viapath with outsourcers Serco to take over the running of their pathology labs.

As the contract neared its end, a tender process was unveiled to decide who would run the service for the next 15 years. The contract is worth an estimated £2.25bn.

The process was overseen by a panel comprising the future customers of whoever was appointed, GPs, the mental health trust, plus KCH and GSTT.

How did they avoid conflict of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest between GSTT/KCH the commissioners and GSTT/KCH the co-owners of Viapath, the incumbents who were bidding?

GSTT/KCH won’t say.

They wouldn’t say at the start of the tender process in 2018, and they won’t say now after Viapath has lost the process and the NHS has mysteriously awarded Serco £15m.

In January 2020, the trusts announced Synlab, a different contender, was the preferred provider in the process.

Then KCH admitted there had been a “challenge” to the tender process and by March the trusts were discussing a buyout of Serco’s third of Viapath.

Who brought this challenge?

Seems unlikely Synlab, the announced preferred bidder, would challenge. HSL, the third bidder, also seems an unlikely candidate, but it hasn’t confirmed or denied.

Could Viapath have challenged the decision to appoint Synlab?

GSTT/KCH won’t say.

If Viapath did issue the challenge, then KCH and GSTT’s representatives on its board — trust finance directors Lorcan Woods and Martin Shaw, who controlled the majority share — would have had to have approved it.

Did they do this?

GSTT/KCH won’t say.

If the GSTT/KCH reps on Viapath didn’t approve a challenge to the process, could Serco have said, “Well, this is unfair — we want to challenge but can’t and these members have a conflict of interest”?

Seems there’s at least the perception of potential COI for the trusts as co-owners and the trusts as tender process managers.

In that case, was there a legal challenge from Serco to the process?

Serco won’t say. GSTT/KCH won’t say.

There was a buy-out at the end of last May, documented in Serco’s annual accounts and trust board papers.

But what was there to buy out?

At that point, Viapath was a company that had lost all of its major contracts, including the main one.

In its previous annual accounts, it admitted it needed the south east London contract to survive.

How much could one-third of a company in that position be worth?

Serco hadn’t built the labs from scratch or anything. There was talk of it investing in the creaky IT infrastructure used by the Viapath labs but it seems unlikely that was worth £15m.

If that accounted for much of the £15m, wouldn’t Serco or GSTT/KCH have mentioned it?

They haven’t, and mystery abounds.

GSTT/KCH say they appointed an “external valuation support” to assess the company’s value, but not who or what provided this support.

Part of the £15m comprised £2.9m of profit share agreement Serco had previously written off as “irrecoverable”. It is not clear why it was irrecoverable or why GSTT/KCH/Viapath then decided to give it to them as the relationship was ending.


And then it gets weirder, and even more egregiously unexplained by GSTT/KCH.

Because far from being dissolved, as Viapath chair David Bennett said Viapath would have to be in the event of it losing the contract, it is actually still the provider.

Viapath, the people who lost the bid (ie, weren’t preferred provider) have retained the contract but Serco (co-losers of the bid) are out and Synlab (actual preferred providers of the bidding process) can “buy into” Viapath.

The “buy into” disclosure comes from Viapath’s most recent annual accounts.

Imagine bidding for a contract, winning it, then being told, “Actually, we’re sticking with the incumbent company, but if you like you can ‘buy into’ that company. We’ve paid Serco £15m and they’ve left.”

Synlab’s board presumably are cool with this though, and won’t say how much they paid to “buy into” the losers of the bid process.

Former Monitor chief executive David Bennett might know. Despite leading a losing bid, he is still chair of Viapath.

Legally, GSTT/KCH and procurement partners must have formally ended the procurement process, then awarded the contract unilaterally to Viapath.

If so, that might be the biggest tender waiver ever granted. Certainly, NHS England and Improvement were informed of a transaction but exactly which is unknown.

Again, GSTT/KCH won’t say what has happened, which is odd because £15m is a lot of money, but not compared to the £2.25bn for the whole of the contract.

Do chief executives Ian Abbs and Clive Kay really think this is a proper level of accountability for the award of a 10-digit public contract?

GSTT/KCH won’t say. Or maybe they can’t.

NHSE/I has to sign off every trust communication now, and GSTT suggested making a Freedom of Information request for the answer to some of the questions HSJ asked about this £2.25bn procurement process.

In communications terms, “FOI it” means: “We won’t tell the public what happened with a £15m payout relating to a £2.25bn contract unless we are legally obliged to.”

Is that a level of accountability the public will now accept?

Source link

Anderson, IN



A mix of clouds and sun. High 64F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph..


A few passing clouds. Low near 40F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.

Updated: April 12, 2021 @ 2:28 pm

Source link

LATIN-19 combats mixed messaging about IDs and COVID-19 vaccines.

By Anne Blythe

As the sun set in leafy west Durham, leaving a palette of salmon- and gold-colored streaks across the sky, a steady stream of people walked up to the Asbury United Methodist Church on a windy Thursday evening.

Upbeat salsa music wafted from an amplifier in the church side yard.

Rapid response operators from La Semilla, a faith-based organization that reaches out to the Latino and larger immigrant communities, stood under a canopy, swaying to the festive beat.

For three hours, the La Semilla team signed in some 500 people who came to get a first dose of a two-shot COVID-19 vaccine at the community clinic operated in conjunction with Duke Health.

“We’ve been heavily invested in pandemic response,” said Edgar Vergara, pastor of Iglesia La Semilla, a new faith community that’s worshipped since 2019 at the nearly 100-year-old brick church on the edge of Duke’s East Campus.

As a couple checked in to get their vaccines together, Vergara pointed to another part of the church yard where others working with La Semilla were giving out boxes with food such as fruit, rice, canned goods, cooking oil and more.

For months, while La Semilla and its team of volunteers and rapid response operators distributed food at sites throughout the region, they also shared much more.

Nayeli Garcia, a full-time rapid response coordinator, has taken the time to talk with families about COVID-19 vaccines and respond to any questions.

Two people stand behind a table outside a brick church
As the sun sets at Asbury United Methodist Church in Durham, La Semilla and Duke Health get people vaccinated inside. Photo credit: Anne Blythe

“When I tell them, ‘My name is Nayeli and I took the vaccine,’ they say, You did?’,” Garcia recalled recently. “I tell them yes and it is safe, that I am OK. They want to know more.”

Though North Carolina’s governor and public health team have built the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan on the theme of being “fast and fair,” there are persistent disparities in the number of vaccinated individuals in communities of color.

Hispanics make up 9.8 percent of North Carolina’s population and have borne the burden of 21 percent of the state’s more than 930,000 cases of COVID-19. But, as of April 8, they only made up 5.5 percent of those vaccinated.

Black residents, who comprise 23.1 percent of the population, have had a lower rate of infection at 21 percent, but have made up 25 percent of the state’s deaths. Blacks only account for 17.2 percent of those vaccinated.

Initially, there was much talk among health care providers and others about vaccine hesitancy in such communities. More recently, though, the disparities have been framed more about issues of access.

“The average Hispanic family is eager to get the vaccine,” Vergara said.

As public health advocates work to knock down access barriers, they also want to ensure that accurate messages are being spread through communities and to vaccine providers.

“You don’t need to take a Social [Security card] or identification,” Garcia, who is fluent in Spanish and English, makes sure to tell the people she speaks with.

No ID necessary

Throughout the pandemic, there have been concerns among North Carolina’s Latin population about being asked by health care providers, COVID testing site workers and others to provide identification cards and papers that they fear might be turned over to immigration authorities and used against them.

Though it’s important for the state to collect ethnic and racial data to ensure fair distribution of vaccines, and to get a name entered into the state database correctly spelled that accurately reflects what’s on other documents, how that’s done has made some uneasy.

The Latinx Advocacy Team and Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19, known more commonly as LATIN-19, has gone into depth during several weekly meetings about the confusion over whether an ID is required.

Though residents are told they are not required, some vaccine providers ask for them.

LATIN-19 dates back to March 2020, when several Latina physicians and health care workers at Duke formalized lunchtime conversations they had been having for months and invited others to join them once a week on Zoom.

Throughout the pandemic, the number of people attending the Zoom meetings has grown. For an hour in late March, more than 100 people tuned in at their lunch hour to listen to or take part in the discussion.

Community organizers, health care workers and others went on at great length about how North Carolina’s Hispanic population trailed the percentage of white and Black residents being inoculated.

Yazmin Garcia Rico, a social worker who is the director of Latinx/Hispanic Policy and Strategy at the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in late March that she had been hearing at least once a week about vaccine site workers asking for IDs.

Two women wearing face masks stand behind a table to hand out bags of personal protective equipment to vaccine clinic participants
Two rapid response operators from La Semilla hand out bags of personal protective equipment during a COVID-19 vaccine community event in Durham. Photo credit: Anne Blythe

During the March 31 meeting, there were anecdotes of people being asked for an ID at a Sampson County clinic, a Chapel Hill pharmacy and in Durham. Those are not isolated incidents, Garcia Rico said. It’s happening across the state.

“We continue to bring that up, we continue to address that with vaccine providers,” Garcia Rico told the Zoom attendees. “Case managers are reminding and having that conversation, and I ask for reports on how often that is being done so that we make sure when we’re doing vaccine allocations that they are being reminded.”

Additionally, Garcia Rico said, DHHS is in the process of developing a “My Rights” card, or something that could be distributed through Latino communities and organizations, to empower people with information they can use if providers insist on an ID.

“I know that doesn’t solve the issue on the health care providers and we’re also trying to push on that,” Garcia Rico said. “But I also want to make sure that when people show up to get their vaccine that they have something with them that says this is the way it should be.

“We need to work on the provider issue,” Garcia Rico added. “But we also need to make sure that we give our community the tools they need to make sure that they can also do the advocacy, having some sort of material that is bilingual that they understand but they also can show a list of their rights.”

Many names, one individual

At an Alamance County clinic where some people were deterred when asked for an ID, it became clear that volunteers entering information into the state’s vaccine database wanted to make sure they were entering a correct name.

For years, residents who have more than a first, middle and last name – something that’s common in Latin cultures –  can be entered into databases in a variety of ways, generating a trail of health care records under multiple names or a variety of sequencing of their names.

“I was with my mom for her naturalization papers and she has many names, she has seven names, the officer said pick two and made her just decide on two names, on the spot, in the moment, which was kind of devastating to her,” recalled Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a LATIN-19 founder and family physician at Duke Health.

Which are the two most important ones, Martinez-Bianchi said her mother wondered at the time. Why should I have to make this choice? Her mom gave the officer the names to put down.

“Then they actually misspelled it,” Martinez-Bianchi recounted. “Now the letter DE is part of her last name, which normally shouldn’t have been.”

To get the names listed in the correct order and spelling, some community advocates suggest encouraging people who don’t want to show an ID to write their names on a slip of paper for people doing the data entry or asking those at the computers to turn laptop screens around so someone can confirm their name is spelled correctly.

“One of the issues that we have seen in the pop-up events is that people do not read or have their glasses,” Martinez-Bianchi. “They may not read from literacy levels or they may not read because they can’t really see the screen.”

Hope and optimism

At the Durham church, where La Semilla held the vaccine clinic, a bank of men and women sat behind laptops set up on folding tables as a steady stream of people seeking vaccines came into the room.

Leonor Corsino, an Duke Health endocrinologist and co-founder of LATIN-19, and other health care providers were in the church to administer vaccines after the data entry was completed.

After getting a shot, the newly vaccinated moved into the sanctuary where they were monitored by rapid response operators and others for 15 minutes.

As people rose from the wooden pews and headed toward the front entrance of the church to go out into the night with a new dose of hope and optimism, applause broke out in the sanctuary.

“We call this the blessing area,” Vergara said, pointing to the altar. “Because usually as people leave, we call the blessings.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Source link