A new study out of the United Kingdom reinforces the influence that culture and societal attitudes can have on the health status of older adults. Psychologists from the University of Kent used data from the European Social Survey to ask respondents, all age 70 or older, to self-rate their health.
In countries where old age is thought of as signifying low status, participants who identified themselves as ‘old’ felt worse about their own health. The opposite was true in places where older people have a perception of higher social status. The researchers concluded that elevating perceived social status of older people would reduce negative connotations associated with old age and the negative impact on how healthy people felt.
The value different societies place on the elderly has a lot to with how they are cared for later in life, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond explained in a recent TED talk. These effects in turn, influence public policy for global long-term services and supports. The International Federation of Social Workers recently noted, “Although older adults serve as essential resources to their communities, they face a great risk of marginalization.” Continue reading
The Bronx has ranked as the least-healthy county in New York State for several years running. The news team at WNYC wanted to find out if the Affordable Care Act or other recent policies were having any impact.
Heart disease, diabetes and asthma are unusually prevalent in the borough, where people also struggle with high unemployment and poor housing.
“People in the Bronx have excellent access to health care. So why are so many of them so sick?” one of the resulting news reports asked. Others explored the links between education, employment and health; whether housing should be considered health care; and how neighborhood conditions shape food choices.
WNYC reporter Amanda Aronczyk was new to health reporting when she got the assignment. We asked her to share how she juggled all the moving parts to sustain the deeply reported series that aired in June.
“The assignment was to report a series on health and health care in the Bronx between January and May, with an airdate at the beginning of June,” Aronczyk says. “I had about month to propose a package of stories.” Read more…
Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., an expert on the impact of housing on child health, says journalists would do well to broaden the conversation about health care to include questions about social support – especially support for safe, affordable and stable housing.
Sandel has contributed a tip sheet that includes key stories to pursue and critical insights on the housing-as-health-care trend.
Find out why housing has an enormous impact on educational attainment and economic stability, how unequal enforcement of health and safety codes creates disparities and what the three essential elements of healthy housing are. See the tip sheet now.
The statistics are hard to believe.
- The most dangerous counties in the United States have rates of violent death that are more than 10 times higher than the safest counties.
- In Los Angeles County, homicide subtracts nearly five years from the expected life span of African American men in some neighborhoods.
- Across the U.S., death by homicide is more than eight times more common among blacks, and three times more common among Native Americans, compared with white Americans.
What could account for such staggering inequalities? A new key concept in AHCJ’s core topic area on the social determinants of health sizes up the problem, what’s known about root causes, and how people are trying to reduce the unequal burden of violent injury and death.
Note how the risk of violent injury rose with each step of decreasing neighborhood socioeconomic status in this 10-year study of hospitalizations in Memphis, Tenn, and surrounding Shelby County.
People with diabetes in the lowest income neighborhoods of California were 10 times more likely to lose lower extremities to amputation than people with diabetes in the highest income neighborhoods, according to a new paper published in Health Affairs.
Many news outlets covered the story, but none that I read provided much context beyond repeating what the Health Affairs paper had to say, which is a shame because there’s a lot to report. Most ignored the disturbing racial disparity in amputation rates. (HealthDay News did note the study’s finding that less than 6 percent of diabetics in California are black, but they account for about 13 percent of amputations.)
The study authors mapped hot spots of diabetic amputation in Los Angeles and across California, where rates varied from less than one to more than 10 amputations per 1,000 people age 45 and older with diabetes in 2009. Continue reading
Measured by rates of violent death, the most dangerous counties in the United States have rates that are more than 10 times higher than the safest counties.
As you can see in the map below, rates vary from less than 10 to more than 100 violent deaths per 100,000 population, based on homicides, police shootings, and suicides in the years 2004 through 2010. (Counties with rates based on 20 or fewer deaths are unreliable and are marked as suppressed.)
I generated this map and the others below using WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System), an interactive database system that provides customized reports of injury-related data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mapping module draws on seven years of data, the amount needed to produce reliable county-level injury-related death rates, according to the CDC, and it is a powerful tool to explore health disparities. Continue reading
Pittsburgh’s dominant health system closed a hospital in the economically depressed town of Braddock four years ago and soon after opened a new hospital in the more affluent suburb of Monroeville, Pa.
Lillian Thomas of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wanted to know how common it was for hospital corporations to abandon disadvantaged towns and inner cities. That was the beginning of a reporting journey that has produced a hard-hitting, ongoing series by Thomas and colleagues at the Post-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The first installments revealed how most of the defunct hospitals were small to mid-size community hospitals and public hospitals that had served poor urban neighborhoods. The closures left many low-income neighborhoods without an effective safety net, undermined efforts to recruit doctors and did away with high-wage jobs for local residents. An incredibly detailed interactive map allows readers to track where old hospitals have closed and new ones have opened in cities across the U.S. since 1991.
I asked Thomas to share how she approached the project and mustered the resources to pull it off. Read more …
News outlets duly noted the recent study showing that injuries and violence kill more young people in the U.S. than any other cause of death. But the coverage scarcely mentioned the researchers’ most troubling and revealing finding: How the burden of these deaths varies enormously by race, ethnicity and social class.
Take a look at figure 2 from the study showing age-adjusted suicide and homicide rates in the U.S. by race and ethnic origin in the year 2010. The unit of measure is the number of deaths by suicide or homicide per 100,000 members of each population:
You can see that rates of suicide are three to four times higher among American Indian and Alaskan Natives and non-Hispanic whites than other populations.
Rates of homicide are more than eight times higher among blacks than among whites, and homicide deaths are three times more common among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than among whites. Continue reading
Hospitals in the U.S. have been abandoning inner cities for years. By 2010, the number of urban hospitals still operating in 52 big cities had fallen to 426, down from 781 in 1970. Meanwhile, hundreds of medical centers built with cathedral-like grandeur have opened for business in affluent suburbs. A hard-hitting series produced by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains the consequences of this trend for people in neighborhoods where hospitals closed.
The series shows how most of the defunct hospitals were small to mid-size community hospitals and public hospitals that had served poor urban neighborhoods. The closures left many low-income neighborhoods without an effective safety net, undermined efforts to recruit doctors, and did away with high-wage jobs for local residents. An incredibly detailed interactive map allows readers to track where old hospitals have closed and new ones have opened in cities across the U.S. since 1991. Continue reading