Author Archives: Emily Willingham

Emily Willingham

About Emily Willingham

Emily Willingham (@ejwillingham) is AHCJ's core topic leader on the social determinants of health. She is a science journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and Forbes, among others, and co-author of "The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Guide to Your Child's First Four Years."

This is the brain on health disparities: Their role in dementia

Photo: NIH Image Gallery via Flickr

In a recent commentary in JAMA Neurology, Elisa de Paula França Resende, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues write about how social determinants of health affect demographic patterns of dementia in the United States. Noting that with an aging population, the prevalence of dementia will increase substantially, Resende and her co-authors write that of the social determinants affecting dementia risk, health and socioeconomics act more strongly than do race or cultural identifiers. I will add here that being female also is involved in dementia risk, as women are at greater risk for it than men. Continue reading

Health disparities begin early for preemies

In the United States, health disparities related to race and ethnicity start early. A study published March 25 in JAMA Pediatrics has found very-low-birth weight and very-preterm infants are segregated by race and ethnicity in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Black babies tend to be treated in NICUs that offer lower-quality care. Infants of Asian and Hispanic ethnicity receive care at NICUs known for best-quality care, and white infants fall in between these extremes.

The authors, from several U.S. universities and hospitals, say that the segregation in the NICU reflects broader social patterns in the United States. Indeed, NICU quality varies by geography and well as by populations treated in them. Continue reading

Finding stories in the looming primary care shortage

Photo: Erin Keller via Flickr

One recent workday, I called my primary care physician’s office and immediately was transferred to voicemail. Usually, I’m perhaps the “fifth caller in queue,” or on a lucky day, the second caller. That day — probably because it was a Monday in winter and people were kicking off their week by calling the doctor — the perky robot voice told me that I was the 14th caller. I hung up, determined to call again later. Continue reading

Advice from a reporter experienced in interviewing people in stigmatized populations

Heather Boerner’s October 2018 piece at NPR examined the fate of people who live without treatment for their HIV after they leave prison. The piece was pinned to a study published in PLOS One showing that people with HIV often are lost to care once they leave the monitoring and services provided in prison.

In her article, in addition to providing an in-depth perspective from several experts, Boerner also gave the reader the story of Bryan C. Jones, who had left a prison in Ohio and almost immediately ditched his HIV drugs because he knew they were no longer working. Continue reading

Wealth care or concierge medicine? Two-tiered medical care is a growing trend

Hilton Head, N.C., might not be the first place that comes to mind when someone asks about social determinants of health. But obviously, behind the scenes of every rich sunset are the people who make the resorts run. And they need health care.

In Hilton Head, though, trouble is on the horizon in the form of concierge medicine, which threatens care access for people who can’t afford to pony up. Continue reading

How machine learning and artificial intelligence might influence social determinants of health

Photo: z rahen via Flickr

This might not seem specific to social determinants of health, but machines that can be trained in health information may become gatekeepers of the future. If the artificial intelligence and medicine intersect successfully, the result could prove lifesaving for people whom social factors leave at a disadvantage. Continue reading