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Health Equity and Access Weekly Roundup: December 2, 2023

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The Center on Health Equity and Access highlights the most recent updates in the realm of health equity, including news, research findings, and initiatives focused on mitigating health care disparities and enhancing overall access to quality care.

Poverty Linked to Health-Related Quality of Life in Children With SCD

A study in Pediatric Blood & Cancer found that poverty significantly affects the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in children with sickle cell disease (SCD), with parental stress playing a mediating role. The research involved 150 children and their parents, revealing that those living below the federal poverty line may experience lower HRQOL. The study suggested a need for public health officials and clinicians to assess resource deprivation in families with children affected by SCD to improve their quality of life. However, limitations include a cross-sectional design and potential bias in the sample.

Meaningful Health Changes Possible Through Reducing Obstacles to Safety-Net Programs

The importance of simplifying access to safety-net programs to ensure funds reach those in need was highlighted in an article published in Health Affairs Forefront. Administrative hurdles, like complex paperwork and procedural challenges, contribute to disenrollment, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups. Safety-net programs, addressing economic challenges from health, job, and age-related changes, face unequal access due to administrative burdens. Few individuals enroll in multiple programs, indicating underutilization of available assistance. Simplifying processes, such as online applications, can enhance access and improve health outcomes.

Dr Alvaro Pascual-Leone Discusses Disparities in Alzheimer Disease Research

In the second part of an interview for Alzheimer Disease Awareness Month, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, discussed racial and ethnic disparities in Alzheimer disease and dementia research. He emphasized the importance of conducting studies in diverse populations and addressing observed differences. Pascual-Leone cites examples, such as the lecanemab study, to highlight the need for targeted research in specific racial groups. The discussion also touched on the role of the gene variant APOE4 in Alzheimer research, noting its impact on disease risk and treatment outcomes.

Gaps in Access to Cancer Care Resources May Contribute to Racial, Ethnic Disparities

A study published in JAMA Oncology revealed that hospitals serving higher proportions of racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States were less likely to offer essential cancer-related services, indicating disparities in resource access. Black patients treated at such hospitals with lower surgical volumes experience worse outcomes, with up to half of excess mortality in colon or breast cancer attributed to hospital-level factors. Hispanic individuals face low cancer screening and higher mortality. Hospitals serving racial and ethnic minorities were larger, urban, and teaching hospitals with more Medicaid beneficiaries. Core oncology services and support services were less likely available at these hospitals, suggesting resource disparities contribute to cancer care disparities.

PCORI Invests $80.5 Million in Research Addressing Maternal Health Equity

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has dedicated $80.5 million for 4 patient-centered studies addressing maternal morbidity and mortality, part of a broader initiative. These studies focus on health care and social determinants, prioritizing populations with maternal health disparities. The funding emphasizes partnerships between research institutions and community organizations, with each study tackling unique challenges in different communities. Targeted populations include Black individuals, Hispanic/Latin American communities, rural residents, and those with lower incomes. The research, spanning diverse US regions, aims to address both health care and social determinants for pregnant individuals and new mothers.

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