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Experts Anticipate Flood of Chronic Health Conditions Due to Interrupted Health Care During Pandemic

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Researchers are anticipating a “tsunami” of chronic health conditions as a result of disrupted care during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a need for immediate, comprehensive strategies, according to a pair of new articles published in the journal Circulation.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to cardiovascular science and medicine; however, the pandemic also created opportunities to transform and create novel approaches that can yield new successes, according to the researchers. The long-term societal and economic impacts have promoted urgent responses in many sectors, the authors said, which could lead to real-world efforts to improve prevention of chronic health conditions.

The first article is written by Robert M. Califf, MD, the head of clinical policy and strategy at Verily Life Sciences and Google Health and a former commissioner of the FDA. Califf said that immediate, comprehensive action is needed to avoid the dramatic rise in chronic health conditions, particularly cardiometabolic disease. He noted that 3 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States—cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes—are linked to cardiometabolic disease.

Califf said critical shifts in the US health care system should include universal health care, public health and research strategies incorporating big data, and improved health data sharing that can inform more effective and efficient prevention and treatment protocols and programs. He also noted the impacts of structural racism and said that social determinants of health must be incorporated at all levels of research, clinical care, and within communities and society at large.

He recommended more real time, in-depth tracking of chronic health conditions similar to the rapid data dashboards that were implemented to track COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death, according to the press release. With better information more easily accessible, Califf said strategies to prevent and treat chronic health conditions can be measured and adapted accordingly.

The second article was written by Nanette K. Wenger, MD, FAHA, a professor of medicine in the cardiology division at Emory University School of Medicine. According to the press release, she has been at the forefront of advancing patient care for more than 60 years and was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Wenger said she believes the United States has been experiencing 3 simultaneous pandemics: COVID-19, economic disruption, and social injustice, with the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying the societal and health care disparities created by the other 2 pandemics. Despite these problems, Wenger said there have been many recent successes and shifts, such as the quick adoption of telemedicine, which can lead to broad transformation in health care delivery.

As investigators moved quickly to understand COVID-19 and potential treatments and vaccines, the pandemic opened the door for successful public-private partnerships that resulted in rapid results. Wenger wondered whether these partnerships could provide a model for future advancements.

“The convergence of all of these issues, their impact on cardiovascular disease and care, presents unique opportunities for transformation in cardiovascular medicine, clinical care and research,” Wenger concluded in the press release. “We must remain focused and flexible during this unprecedented time to maximize innovation and achieve equity for all.”

REFERENCE

COVID-19: Tsunami of chronic health conditions expected, research & health care disrupted [news release]. American Heart Association; April 6, 2021. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/covid-19-tsunami-of-chronic-health-conditions-expected-research-health-care-disrupted?preview=0d99. Accessed April 7, 2021.

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Health Fusion: Garden tip 1 for veggie success

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As a health reporter, I’m always reading scholarly research articles. A quick journal search reveals an ever-increasing number of studies on the health benefits of gardening. But I knew that getting my hands dirty in the soil was good for my mind and body long before I started reading and writing about it. Gardening helped me cope with the COVID-19 situation, and now I’m a huge advocate of inspiring others to grow things.

I’m particularly excited about vegetable gardening and how it gets people to put more veggies on their plate. A study from the University of Michigan reports that kids who do gardening activities tend to up their intake of vegetables. And we all know that vegetables and fruits are good for our overall health.

In order to help you be successful at growing (and hopefully eating) vegetables, I have some tips that I’ll share throughout the season. Tip No. 1: Start with the soil. Plants get nutrients form the soil, and, just like humans, they need a healthy balance to grow. So before you add fertilizer, you need to know what’s already there.

In particular, you need to know the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. The University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University and other institutions have soil testing labs that can analyze samples you send them. Then they return the results, which include recommendations for the type of fertilizer you should use, to amend the soil before planting.

Properly amended, nutrient-rich soil will help your garden get off to a great growing start.

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

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Anita Bennett and Kelly King Horne column: Homelessness is a public health crisis | Columnists

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Homeward ensured that the shelter program met U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, secured additional private funding and helped coordinate public funding for the Pandemic Shelter.

As the pandemic evolved, so, too, did our system’s response to those experiencing homelessness. We adjusted procedures to adhere to the latest guidance and expanded the Pandemic Shelter to meet the expanded need.

So, what did we learn from the pandemic?

First, homelessness is as much a public health challenge as it is a housing challenge. Housing instability is a deadly proposition for a great many people and cuts short the lives of those who are experiencing homelessness.

Medical professionals and health care providers need to meet people where they are. That’s why in addition to its primary care, behavioral health and dental services from its physical locations, Daily Planet Health Services now offers mobile medical services to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

This shift in approach also explains the success of our region’s vaccination efforts. Daily Planet has administered more than 4,600 COVID-19 vaccine shots to individuals experiencing homelessness and those who are working in shelters.

Second, we learned that shelter can be a lifesaving intervention. Shelter isn’t housing and it’s not a permanent solution. It’s one step toward stable housing, but it’s often a crucial step. Simply providing a safe space to stay temporarily saved lives.

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Shawnee Health Care’s Felicia Kimbrough says nursing ties in many of her passions | Special Sections

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Felicia Kimbrough NP, DNP, has a nursing practice which is a little different than most.

As a nurse practitioner for Shawnee Health Care’s Terrier Care location inside Carbondale Community High School, her clientele, daily activities and role is unique.

“Terrier Care is literally inside the school,” the 41-year-old Carterville resident shares. “We provide health care to the students at CCHS along with all of the feeder schools as well as the families of those students, faculty and staff and their families, so it allows me the unique opportunity to literally be with my patients five days a week in the same building for years at a time. Many times, it allows me to know families, to know back stories and to really get to know my patients. I love it.” 

Kimbrough has been at Terrier Care for five years following positions at a federally-funded clinic in Louisville, time at Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin and other roles with Shawnee. All told, she’s been a nurse for 20 years.

She says nursing combines many of her passions.

“I have always really loved science and I love reading and I love people,” she explains. “Nursing is a perfect bridge to all of the things that I love. I get to ‘do’ science every day; I get to talk with people every day and get to be a part of some great things in their lives.”

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