Public Health News Roundup: July 26
Young Blacks Living in Public Housing More Likely to be Smokers
A recent survey in three urban cities by a University of Missouri researcher found that young African-Americans who live in public housing communities are 2.3 times more likely to use tobacco than other African-American youth. The researchers say crime, poorer social relationships and high levels of stress may contribute to the increased smoking rate. The study was published in the journal, Addictive Behaviors. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Medicaid Expansion Improves Health
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that expanding Medicaid to low-income adults leads to widespread gains in coverage, access to care, improved health and mortality reduction.
In the past decade, several states expanded Medicaid from its traditional coverage of low-income children, parents, pregnant women and disabled persons to include poor adults without any children living at home. The researchers analyzed data from three states—Arizona, Maine and New York—that had expanded their Medicaid programs to childless adults (aged 20-64) between 2000 and 2005 and compared outcomes with four neighboring states without major Medicaid expansions—New Hampshire (for Maine); Pennsylvania (for New York); and Nevada and New Mexico (for Arizona).
The researchers looked at data from five years before and after each state’s expansion. They found that, compared to the states that did not expand Medicaid, the Medicaid expansions in the three states were associated with a mortality reduction of 6.1%, which corresponds to 2,840 deaths prevented per year for every 500,000 adults gaining Medicaid coverage. Mortality reductions were greatest among older adults, non-whites and residents of poorer counties. Expansions also were associated with increased Medicaid coverage, decreased uninsurance, decreased rates of deferring care due to costs and increased rates of “excellent” or “very good” self-reported health. Read more on access to health care.
Use of Imaging as a Diagnostic Tool has Slowed
A new study published in Health Affairs finds that demand for new radiologists began declining in 2007 because of a decreased demand for imaging studies. The study authors found that use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) for patients in the United States slowed between 1 and 3 percent per year between 2006 and 2009, ending a decade of growth that had exceeded 6 percent annually. The authors say reasons for the decrease include the need for prior authorization for the tests, reduced reimbursement, increased cost sharing for patients and fears associated with radiation. Read more on radiation.