Category Archives: Barriers to care: financial
Elizabeth Sweet, PhD, is a biocultural anthropologist researching economic and racial disparities in health and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2008-2010). She was the lead author of a recent study exploring the impact of financial debt on health.
Human Capital Blog: You have published more than one study that looks at the impact of debt on health. What led to your interest in this topic?
Elizabeth Sweet: My interest is driven by both intellectual and personal reasons. As someone who studies the impact of social inequalities on health, I am interested in personal debt as a dimension of socioeconomic status, a site of racial and economic disparity, and a reflection of broader social, cultural, and political-economic forces. Also, as someone who completed education with a fair amount of debt, I am personally familiar with the profound stress that debt can cause.
HCB: College tuition is rising and more people are defaulting on student loan debt. How does student loan debt affect young people’s mental and physical health?
Sweet: This is such an important question. Our study suggests that financial debt indeed impacts the health and well-being of young people—leading to higher stress and depressive symptoms, worse general health, and higher blood pressure. The specific impact of student loan debt, vs. other kinds of debt, is an open question though; the Add Health data that we used did not have that level of detail regarding the types of debt that respondents had.
This is part of the July 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.
Short Rest Between Nurses’ Shifts Linked with Fatigue
New research from Norway suggests that nurses with less than 11 hours between shifts could develop sleep problems and suffer fatigue on the job, with long-term implications for nurses’ health.
Psychologist Elisabeth Flo, PhD, of the University of Bergen in Norway, led a team of researchers that analyzed survey data from more than 1,200 Norwegian nurses, focusing on questions about how much time nurses had between shifts, their level of fatigue at work and elsewhere, and whether they experienced anxiety or depression.
Analyzing the data, they found that nurses, on average, had 33 instances of “quick returns” in the previous year—that is, shifts that began 11 hours or less after another shift ended. Nurses with more quick returns were more likely to have pathological fatigue or suffer from difficulty sleeping and excessive sleepiness while awake—both common problems for night workers.
Janice Johnson Dias, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections alumnus (2008) and president of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a health advocacy that develops and scales community health initiatives for women and girls. She is a graduate of Brandeis and Temple universities and a newly tenured faculty member in the sociology department at City University of New York/John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Policy action and discussion this month have focused on poverty, sparked by the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Dr. King’s birthday. Though LBJ and King disagreed about the Vietnam War, they shared a commitment to ending poverty. Half a century ago, President Johnson introduced initiatives to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources for the poor. Meanwhile, Dr. King tackled poverty through the “economic bill of rights” and the Poor People's Campaign. Both their efforts focused largely on employment.
Where is health in these and other anti-poverty efforts?
The answer seems simple: nowhere and everywhere. Health continues to play only a supportive role in the anti-poverty show. That's a mistake in our efforts to end poverty. It was an error in 1964 and 1968, and it remains an error today.
Let us consider the role of health in education and employment, the two clear stars of anti-poverty demonstrations. Research shows that having health challenges prevents the poor from gaining full access to education and employment. Sick children perform more poorly in schools. Parents with ill children work fewer hours, and therefore earn less. Health care costs can sink families deeper into debt.
By Santa J. Ono and Greer Glazer
Santa J. Ono, PhD, is president of the University of Cincinnati. Greer Glazer, PhD, is dean and Schmidlapp professor of nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program. This piece first appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer; it is reprinted with permission from the newspaper.
The children of poor Cincinnati neighborhoods are 88 times more likely to require hospitalization to treat asthma than their peers across town. That’s an urban health disparity born of unequal access to the kind of consistent, attentive, high-quality health care that renders asthma a controllable condition.
In academic medicine, we chart the credentials of our staff and the test scores of our students. We tout the wizardry of the medical technology we bring to bear on exotic maladies. But too often we lose sight of the fact that the ultimate test of an academic medical center isn’t what’s inside the building, it’s what’s outside. If we are improving the health of the communities we serve, then we are truly succeeding.
By that score, we are falling short.
Sheryl Magzamen, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2007-2009). She recently published two studies exploring the link between early childhood lead exposure and behavioral and academic outcomes in Environmental Research and the Annals of Epidemiology. She discusses both below.
Human Capital Blog: What are the main findings of your study on childhood lead exposure and discipline?
Sheryl Magzamen: We found that children who had moderate but elevated exposure lead in early childhood were more than two times as likely as unexposed children to be suspended from school, and that’s controlling for race, socioeconomic status, and other covariates. We’re particularly concerned about this because of what it means for barriers to school success and achievement due to behavioral issues.
We are also concerned about the fact that there‘s a strong possibility, based on animal models, that neurological effects of lead exposure predispose children to an array of disruptive or anti-social behavior in schools. The environmental exposures that children have prior to going to school have been largely ignored in debates about quality public education.
Americans’ visits to physicians had become less frequent in recent years, at least in part because of patients’ financial concerns. But they’re apparently beginning to pick up again. American Medical News reports that recent data from insurers, consultants and analysts shows physician visit volume has risen, and that patients are reporting fewer problems affording care.
Among the encouraging data points:
- A June research note from analyst Charles Boorady of Citigroup Investment Research shows physician visit volume rose by 4.8 percent over the second quarter of 2012. The number is good news on its own, but the trend line it represents may be just as telling: The comparable quarter of 2011 saw an 8.9 percent decline.
- In a March Gallup poll, 80.9 percent of respondents said they had no problem affording needed health care. Though this number is slightly lower than in February 2011, it is up from the 77.7 percent who responded similarly when the recession hit in late 2008.
- Data from Truven Health Analytics, formerly Thomson Reuters Healthcare, finds that visits to family doctors, internists, ob-gyns and pediatricians rose in May and June.
Though an easing of financial pressures could be behind the rising number of patient visits to physicians’ offices, the American Medical News story notes that some experts think the Affordable Care Act may also be playing a part: Now that many preventive services are covered free of charge, more patients may be seeking out these services.
What do you think? What’s behind the trend in increased physician visits? Is it due to patients’ finances, health reform, both or neither? Register below to leave a comment.