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."

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

For children born with or without heart conditions, social factors play a clear role in their cardiovascular outcomes

When it comes to health care disparities and cardiovascular disease (CVD), the divide widens early. A spate of studies published recently illustrates how social factors influence CVD outcomes from our earliest years.

For example, a report published in Pediatrics found that the increased obesity prevalence among U.S. adolescents is happening almost entirely among those in low- and middle-income families. Smoking, diet quality, and physical activity levels also tracked with household socioeconomic status for these children, based on the NHANES data used in the study. The only equal-opportunity metabolic derailment among teens in the United States appears to be prediabetes and diabetes. Risk factors for CVD overall declined for adolescents from 1999 to 2014, but significantly so only for those from high-income households. Continue reading