Author Archives: Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert is an independent health journalist and AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. She covers older adults, baby boomers, health policy, and social determinants of health, as well as many other health issues. Her bylines include stories for PBS/NextAvenue.org. the American Journal of Nursing, TIME Health, Medscape, Consumer Reports, and Medical Economics, as well as dozens of other trade and mainstream media. Her articles have been syndicated in Forbes.com, the Los Angeles Times, the Hartford Courant, the Saturday Evening Post and other major outlets.

New tip sheet explores aging in American Indian/Alaskan Native populations

Photo by Samuel King Jr. via Flickr.

Geography, race and ethnicity play a key role in how long people live. Lack of access to preventive care, multiple chronic conditions and mistrust of the health system are also more prevalent among certain populations, including American Indians/Alaskan Natives. It’s an important health story that may be missed, even by journalists who regularly report on this population.

I recently participated in the webinar, “Health: Equity: Aging and Health Care Disparities in Indigenous Communities” as part of an AHCJ partnership with the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). It’s not a topic I was too familiar with, so I was grateful for the opportunity to learn more. As this new tip sheet explains, while the American Indian/Alaska Native older population will more than double to 648,000 by 2060, the groups have a lower life expectancy, lower quality of life and are disproportionately affected by many chronic conditions than other racial/ethnic groups, according to the CDC

Much of this shorter life expectancy has to do with prevalence of multiple chronic conditions like obesity and heart disease and lifestyle concerns like smoking. More than one in three American Indian/Alaskan Native adults 50 and older are obese; two of every three older adults do not engage in monthly physical activity. And these groups are 30% more likely to have high blood pressure compared with other populations and are 20% more likely to smoke — the highest prevalence among all groups.

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New must-read book for reporters tackles ageism

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Commonwealth University)

We are all guilty of ageism, even those of us who report on or study aging for a living. It’s everywhere — in advertising, movies, the workplace, health care settings, and family and social relationships. However, until we’re aware and willing to acknowledge age bias, we can’t overcome it as a society.

That’s why I was so eager to read Ageism Unmasked by Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University department of gerontology and executive director of the Virginia Center on Aging. This well-researched and written book explores our exposure to the “old is bad, young is good” trope from childhood.

Gendron guides readers on how to recognize our implicit and explicit biases and reframes aging as a positive, rather than a negative experience. She also discusses how we can treat everyone more considerately, regardless of age.

In this Q&A, Gendron shares what journalists should keep in mind when reporting on aging concerns. This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.

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Baby boomers suffer more comorbidities than prior generations at similar ages

Photo by Barbara Olsen via pexels.

Baby boomers may be living longer than their parents or grandparents, but they’re not necessarily healthier than previous generations at the same ages. New research published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, shows that later-born generations of older adults in the United States are more likely to have more chronic health conditions than the generations that preceded them. 

The prevalence of multi-morbidity — which affects between 55% and 98% of the U.S. population  age 65 and older, represents a substantial health threat to aging populations as the number of older Americans increases. Multiple chronic conditions (MCCs) also place a tremendous strain on the health system, such as increased demand for various specialists, more frequent hospitalizations, a need for more complex care coordination and medication management. 

MCCs also put more financial pressure on Medicare, which pays for almost all health care for those over 65. This demographic currently makes up about 16% of the U.S. population — but will account for 21% of all Americans — about 77 million — by 2030. That number is expected to soar to 97.5 million by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

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New tip sheet highlights benefits, use of palliative care

Photo by Prachatai via Flickr.

Palliative care, also known as comfort care, isn’t just for people at the end of life. It is also an effective approach when provided in conjunction with curative care and treatments for people facing serious illnesses such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease.

Many people automatically think “hospice” when palliative care is suggested as an adjunct to treatment, but as this new tip sheet details, palliative care is helpful at any stage of illness. It not only improves the quality of life and helps with symptom management, but can also help patients understand their medical options.

A dedicated, interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, religious or spiritual advisors, pharmacists, and nutritionists collaborate works in cooperation with other health providers, to develop a personalized plan of care, ensuring all of the person’s needs — not only physical needs — are met according to the National Institute on Aging. These might include alleviating or managing:

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Medication or treatment side effects

The team also provides care coordination and emotional and social support for the patient and family members. Some people mistakenly believe they have to give up their current physician or medical team to receive palliative care, but that’s not the case. It can be provided at the time of diagnosis or at any point during the disease process, in the hospital, in outpatient settings, or in the home (or other residences, like a nursing home).

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CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure kicks off AHCJ 2022 in Austin

Photo by Paola RodriguezCMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), opened AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2022 conference on Thursday, April 28, with a keynote address highlighting the importance of health care and CMS’s efforts to foster greater equity, access, and value, and how much health care is integrated into the fabric of our society.

Check out the full video of her speech and Q&A.

In her remarks, Brooks-LaSure explained just how much health care is part of the fabric of our society. While many people have been touched by the health system, many are still left out. The Affordable Care Act — in which Brooks-LaSure played a key policy role in developing and implementing — has certainly transformed the health system. However, there’s still too much inequity and multiple challenges to address. Brooks-LaSure has put forth six pillars to guide the agency’s thinking about their work and to ensure CMS measures results to ensure they are pursuing initiatives that address underlying disparities in the health system.

 

Following her brief opening remarks, Brooks-LaSure answered questions from the audience. Reporters took advantage of the opportunity to probe issues including Medicaid expansion, maternal mortality and CMS’s controversial decision to cover the newly approved Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm only for those enrolled in clinical trials. 

 

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that this was unique,” she said, referring to the Aduhelm decision. Normally, coverage decisions are made at a local level, but in this instance, CMS was asked to make a broader decision on this particular drug.

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