Inside the COVID-era debut of People en Español Salud

It takes a supreme degree of confidence to launch a print product into any environment, much less a reconfigured one like point of care, amid a global pandemic. Yet with the recent debut of People en Español Salud, Targeted Media Health (TMH), print giant Meredith’s point-of-care arm, has taken just such a leap.

The publication joins People Health, Time Health and Health Reports in TMH’s point-of-care stable. Some 120 copies of each condition-specific, single-sponsor issue will be delivered to 2,000 physician’s offices over the course of every three-month period.

John Kenyon, VP, managing director of Targeted Media Health and publisher of the four titles, doesn’t understate the challenges that come with debuting a print-first product at a precarious time for many medical practices. “The overall uncertainty hasn’t really cleared up at all,” he said. “Long-term, who knows what the ‘new normal’ will be. It’s possible we’re living in it now.”

Still, Kenyon believes there’s a keen need among Hispanic audiences for better information on a range of health conditions, not to mention an equal desire among marketers and educators to better serve them. He rattles off a host of statistics about the title’s potential readers: They’re 10% more likely to ask a physician for a specific drug in an advertisement versus the general market and around 20% more likely to discuss health and wellness with others in a family setting.

Kenyon adds that Hispanics are disproportionately affected by a range of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, lung cancer and asthma. Diabetes in particular presents a huge problem: Hispanics are 32% more likely to suffer from it than the general population.

“There needs to be cultural education around lifestyle decisions that possibly relate to manifesting some of these conditions,” Kenyon said.

To that end, the content of People en Español Salud hews closely to the formula of People Health: health and wellness information conveyed through the prism of celebrity. The first issue’s cover star is television journalist and author Myrka Dellanos, who details how her life has been affected by diabetes. Other featured celebrities in the issue, devoted to diabetes, include actors Gina Rodriguez and Christian Tappan.

Kenyon says that the People en Español Salud content mix – education and inspiration, with light helpings of fashion and recipes/nutrition – should feel familiar to readers. “People find tremendous comfort in hearing how extraordinary people have ordinary things that happen to them, just like regular people do,” he explained. “Everything is [communicated] in comforting fashion. That’s important, because you’re giving this to people in physicians’ offices, where there can be anxiety.”

As for those offices, TMH has digitized its publications to account for COVID-era concerns about hygiene and viral transmission. “We have a professionally designed QR code which was designed for 60-year-olds to be able to use it. We worked the words four or five times,” Kenyon noted.

At the same time, he believes that print remains a preferred point-of-care option, coronavirus or no. “Listen, [Meredith is] probably one of the U.S. Postal Service’s biggest customers. The number of copies coming back to us – that’s the best auditing you can have, right?” he said. “We really haven’t seen that.”

Kenyon estimates that “10 or 15” offices canceled their subscriptions to THM publications but that “at least 80” called to request additional copies – which, he added, is “kind of bizarre.” Still, he concedes that a digital option is all but necessary in this climate.

“You look at where we are today as a country – we had to address it. There’s no option not to do this,” he said. “So we’re giving doctors and patients the choice. If they don’t want to put the magazines out, we’ll do digital copies. We can do exam rooms. We can do mobile fencing and hit peoples’ phones in the parking lot and building.”

Kenyon expects that future issues of People en Español Salud will revolve around conditions like asthma and psoriasis. While the first issue counted a pharma brand as its sole advertiser, Kenyon hopes subsequent ones will push into the realms of OTC and CPG.

“A P&G brand – what they’re going to say at point of care is extremely different from what they’re going to say in an ad in a magazine or on TV,” he said. “With this [channel] and this audience, there’s so much that they can do with us.”

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Families Of Health Workers Killed By COVID Fight For Denied Workers’ Comp Benefits

James “Mike” Anderson was a hospital employee in suburban Philadelphia with a low-profile though critical job: changing air filters in COVID patients’ rooms.

By late March, new COVID cases in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, had ramped up to as many as 90 per day. At the hospital, Anderson handled air filters and other surfaces that might have been contaminated with the deadly virus, also known to hang in the air.

In early April, Anderson, 51, came down with what he thought was a cold, according to his family’s lawyer, David Stern. On April 13 Anderson was rushed to the hospital, where he died of acute respiratory distress syndrome from COVID-19, according to the county coroner. He left behind a wife and two children, ages 5 and 9.

James “Mike” Anderson, a maintenance mechanic at St. Mary’s Medical Center outside of Philadelphia, died of COVID-19 complications on April 13.(Courtesy of Stephanie Anderson)

Anderson was exposed to the virus at work, the lawyer contends, making his family eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits paid by his employer’s insurer.

“His family deserves to have that income replaced,” Stern said. “Their husband and father certainly can’t be.”

But in a June 16 response to Stern’s death benefits claim, St. Mary Medical Center denied all allegations.

As the COVID toll climbs, sick workers and families of the dead face another daunting burden: fighting for benefits from workers’ compensation systems that, in some states, are stacked against them.

In interviews with lawyers and families across the nation, KHN found that health care workers ― including nurses’ aides, physician assistants and maintenance workers ― have faced denials or long-shot odds of getting benefits paid. In some cases, those benefits amount to an ambulance bill. In others, they would provide lifetime salary replacement for a spouse.

Legal experts say that in some states COVID-19 falls into a long-standing category of diseases like a cold or the flu — conditions not covered by workers’ compensation — with no plans to change that. Other states force workers to prove they caught the virus at work, rather than from a family member or in the community.

“We are asking people to risk their lives every single day — not just doctors, nurses and first responders, but also nurses’ aides and grocery store clerks,” said Laurie Pohutsky, a Democratic Michigan lawmaker who proposed a bill to help essential workers get coverage more easily. “These people are heroes, but we have to actually back those words up with actions.”

In at least 16 states and Puerto Rico, officials have passed measures to make it easier for workers infected with the coronavirus to qualify for benefits for lost wages, hospital bills or death. Similar bills are pending in other states, but some face opposition from business groups over costs.

Many of the proposed actions would turn the tables on the status quo, forcing employers to prove workers did not catch the virus at work. Bills vary in the scope of workers they cover. Some protect all who left home to work during stay-at-home orders. Others are limited to first responders and health care workers. Some would cover only workers who get sick during states of emergency, while others would cover a longer period.

An early glimpse of data shows that health care workers and first responders, two groups hit hard by the virus, make up the majority of those seeking benefits. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 95,000 health care workers have been infected, a figure the agency acknowledges is an undercount. KHN and The Guardian U.S. have identified more than 700 who have died and told the story of 139 of them. For these workers’ families, the stakes of the pending laws are enormous.

In Virginia, attorney Michele Lewane is representing a nurse and a physician assistant who contracted the coronavirus while working at the same urgent care center. The physician assistant, who administered COVID tests, was hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia for about a week. He missed five weeks of work.

When the physician assistant asked the urgent care center for paperwork to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover his hospital bill, an administrator refused to hand it over, saying coronavirus treatment wouldn’t be covered, Lewane said. He was laid off days later and left with a $60,000 hospital bill.

Lewane said the law in Virginia will likely consider COVID-19 an “ordinary disease of life,” akin to a cold or the flu. She said she’d have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that he caught the coronavirus at work.

The bar is so high, she said, that she’s waiting to file a claim in hopes that Virginia joins many other states passing laws that make it easier for health workers to prove their cases.

Craig Davis, president-elect of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, said he took on a test case and received a quick denial of workers’ compensation benefits for a COVID-positive physician assistant.

“We think there’s an infinitesimal possibility of prevailing under our laws as currently written,” he said. His group is pushing for a legislative change.

In Montana, which has largely been spared by the pandemic, workers face even longer odds. A 64-year-old nurse at a small hospital there was hospitalized for eight days with COVID-19 in April, according to her Great Falls lawyer, Thomas Murphy. She remains at home on oxygen, unable to work.

The woman filed a workers’ compensation claim, which could qualify her for up to $800 a week in lost wages plus lifetime coverage of medical bills related to her condition. Instead of agreeing to those benefits, Murphy said, the insurer offered to settle for $17,000, which she declined because it would not cover her medical bills.

Murphy said the employer, which he did not name to protect his client from retaliation, is arguing that she was the first person at the hospital to contract the virus, so she likely didn’t get it at work. However, he noted that two other hospital employees and six patients tested positive within the next two weeks and his client went few places other than work.

In Montana law, the burden of proof lies on the employee to show an illness was work-related.

“We’re going to have to try to piece together all of the sources” that might have infected her — “and prove that it’s more probable than not that she got it at work,” Murphy said. “Women like this woman are going to have a hard road ahead of them.”

The Montana Legislature isn’t set to meet until January, and an executive order appears unlikely.

In New Jersey, attorney Rick Rubenstein is representing the widow of a man who worked as a housekeeper at a nursing home, doing laundry and occasional patient care. Not given protective gear by his employer, the man caught COVID-19 and had a lengthy stay in the intensive care unit before he died.

His wife has the virus now and was faced with a default — no answer in 35 days — after seeking benefits in New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system. They would cover her husband’s $188,000 hospital bill and survivor’s pay of $308 per week.

“She’s isolated, doesn’t know what her own health future holds and doesn’t have an explanation of why this stuff is happening,” Rubenstein said. “It’s terrible.”

A bill proposed in New Jersey would make it easier for essential workers who got COVID-19 during the state of emergency to prove that they got it on the job. The bill was passed by the state Senate and is pending before the General Assembly.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association has opposed the bill, saying it would push higher workers’ compensation insurance rates onto businesses that are “struggling to survive.”

“Our concerns are primarily that the cost of these claims can overwhelm the system, which was not designed to handle claims during a worldwide pandemic,” NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said in a statement.

While there are no national estimates of how many are filing claims for workers’ compensation ― or getting approvals ― Massachusetts provided KHN with a summary of its coronavirus reports from March, April and May.

During those months, employers filed 3,482 “first reports of injury” regarding a worker with COVID-19 ― 2,915 were for health care workers. Insurers denied benefits to 216 health care workers, according to Massachusetts records.

Florida posted similar data, showing a higher rate of denied claims for health care workers. While 1,740 health care workers sought benefits related to COVID-19, about 30%, or 521 claims, were fully denied. Among the 1,200 who were paid benefits, the amount paid added up to $1.3 million.

The cost of covering 9.6 million first responders and health workers nationally could range from $1 billion to $16 billion, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which provides insurance rate recommendations for 38 states. The bill is paid by employers who buy workers’ compensation insurance, employers that self-insure and taxpayers, who support government agencies.

Those estimates do not include New York or California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order broadening coverage through July 5 is projected to add about $1.2 billion to California’s costs.

In many states, business associations consider proposals to expand workers’ compensation too costly and too broad.

A proposed California bill would extend Newsom’s executive order and put the burden on employers to prove that “critical workers,” including those in retail, warehousing and delivery, who got the coronavirus did not get it at work. The bill has critics.

“California employers have been significantly impacted by this crisis and simply cannot be the safety net for this pandemic by providing workers’ compensation benefits for all employees, even when they are not injured at work,” according to a letter of concern signed by the California Chamber of Commerce, California Hospital Association and others.

A federal backstop may become available. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would create a federal fund for essential workers, including health care personnel, who get sick or die from the coronavirus. The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would be modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

In Pennsylvania, there is no presumption that COVID-19 is acquired on the job.

Stern, the lawyer for Anderson’s family, filed a “fatal claim” in May with the state workers’ compensation board, which passed it on to the employer.

A St. Mary Medical Center spokesperson confirmed in an email that Anderson worked there for 23 years and was a maintenance mechanic. She would not discuss his case. “We are extremely saddened by his death,” she wrote. “We are not able to provide additional information out of respect for his and his family’s privacy.”

Mark Banchi volunteers with hospital chaplains and knew Anderson for over 30 years. He said co-workers are reeling from the death of a man who “was enthusiastic, gregarious, friendly.”

“His loss to the hospital is real,” Banchi said. “Some people lift spirits, some people make you glad you came that day, and Mike was one of those people.”

In addition to working at St. Mary for $22 an hour, Anderson had a cleaning job at a car dealership. Stern said Anderson was unlikely to be exposed to the virus there. If Stern prevails, the family would receive two-thirds of Anderson’s combined pay, capped at $1,081 a week.

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Novo Nordisk adapts Rybelsus launch to the coronavirus era

Even during a pandemic, new drugs are still hitting the market. One new medicine, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes treatment Rybelsus, launched this year as the coronavirus fundamentally altered doctors’ and patients’ lives.

The treatment was approved in late 2019 after gaining accelerated approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The launch was scheduled for early 2020, right as the coronavirus began to ramp up around the world.

Because patients with diabetes are at a higher risk from COVID-19, Novo Nordisk also incorporated education about COVID-19 and diabetes into its launch strategy.

“We introduced the drug at the beginning of the year, no doubt the coronavirus situation threw a curveball to how we were going to approach it,” said Ed Cinca, VP of the GLP-1 portfolio at Novo Nordisk. “We continued to accelerate this launch considering many patients would benefit particularly because of coronavirus. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes are suffering the most when it comes to complications associated with COVID-19. It doubled down on our purpose with the introduction of Rybelsus. We needed to ensure that physicians were taking action with a medicine that was powerful enough to support them and easy enough to do so through innovations in telemedicine.”

To adapt to the loss of in-person meetings, Novo Nordisk began holding virtual events for physicians. One such event was its speaker series, typically a two-day live event. Cinca said the transition was fairly smooth to virtual.

The virtual event also saw higher attendance as physicians no longer needed to leave the office and travel to the venue to join in, Cinca said.

As routine doctor visits fell in March and April, Novo Nordisk introduced a virtual copay program and patient education effort for Rybelsus that allowed patients to sign up via text. The support program gave patients virtual access to a certified diabetes educator, Cinca said, allowing them to ask questions about Rybelsus, diabetes or COVID-19 if their usual doctor wasn’t available.

The company also altered the last few seconds of its direct-to-consumer TV ad, adding information about receiving a three-month supply, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A lot of patients were furloughed or losing jobs, creating economic concern around affording their medicines,” Cinca said. “As a portfolio, we brought forward more education about the unfortunate reality that many of these patients are suffering at disproportionate numbers relative to the general population. We want to make sure physicians are aware that patients who are uncontrolled in diabetes are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19 and make educational resources available to them.”

At the height of the pandemic in the U.S., the Rybelsus team also made sure to align their communications with the customer’s needs.

A patient or doctor in New York didn’t have the same needs as one in New Mexico in April, Cinca said. The company was careful not to overwhelm its patients or HCPs during an uncertain time.

“For us, it has been a recognition of being on the customer’s agenda and better understanding where your customer is coming from,” he said. “We make sure our customers are getting all the information and products they need. But the other side is the recognition that this is not what they may need right now and that every area of the country is being impacted differently. We were checking in, making sure patients have access to the product, but it was not the time for us to start introducing new clinical data or to put a foot forward into the sales realm.”

Internally, Cinca said the digital teams took the rapid shift to virtual in stride. To his teams, Cinca emphasized the need for clarity and purpose in every decision or communication.

“I coach youth sports and one of the things you’ll hear me yelling on the sidelines is, ‘Let’s go!’” Cinca said. “We’ve incorporated that into everything we’re doing, even email sign-offs. ‘Let’s go!’ has become a rallying cry inside our organization, with people trying to outdo each other with exclamation points at the end of it. It’s no simple feat to turn those things around and do so in a way that has been simple. Everybody is running toward it with everything we have.”

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As COVID Testing Soars, Wait Times For Results Jump To A Week — Or More

Elliot Truslow went to a CVS drugstore on June 15 in Tucson, Arizona, to get tested for the coronavirus. The drive-thru nasal swab test took less than 15 minutes.

More than 22 days later, the University of Arizona graduate student was still waiting for results.

Elliot Truslow had a drive-thru COVID test at a CVS in Tucson, Arizona, on June 15. CVS told Truslow to expect results in two to four days, but 22 days later, still nothing. (Courtesy of Elliot Truslow)

Truslow was initially told it would take two to four days. Then CVS said five or six days. On the sixth day, the pharmacy estimated it would take 10 days.

“This is outrageous,” said Truslow, 30, who has been quarantining at home since attending a large rally at the school to demonstrate support of Black Lives Matter. Truslow has never had any symptoms. At this point, the test findings hardly matter anymore.

Truslow’s experience is an extreme example of the growing and often excruciating waits for COVID-19 test results in the United States.

While hospital patients can get the findings back within a day, people getting tested at urgent care centres, community health centres, pharmacies and government-run drive-thru or walk-up sites are often waiting a week or more. In the spring, it was generally three or four days.

The problems mean patients and their physicians don’t have the information necessary to know whether to change their behaviour. Health experts advise people to act as if they have COVID-19 while waiting — meaning to self-quarantine and limit exposure to others. But they acknowledge that’s not realistic if people have to wait a week or more.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced Monday that she had tested positive for the virus, complained she waited eight days for her results in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday. During that time, she held a number of meetings with city officials and constituents — “things that I personally would have done differently had I known there was a positive test result in my house,” she said on “Morning Joe.”

“We’ve been testing for months now in America,” she added. “The fact that we can’t quickly get results back so that other people are not unintentionally exposed is the reason we are continuing in this spiral with COVID-19.”

The slow turnaround for results could also delay students’ return to school campuses this fall. It’s already keeping some professional baseball teams from training for a late July start of the season. The lag times could even foil Hawaii’s plan to welcome more tourists. The state had been requiring visitors to quarantine for 14 days, but it announced last month that starting Aug. 1 that mandate would be lifted for people who could show they tested negative within three days before arriving in the islands.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom noted the problem when addressing reporters Wednesday. “We were really making progress as a nation, not just as a state, and now you’re starting to see, because of backlogs with [the lab company] Quest and others, that we’re experiencing multi-day delays,” he said.

The delays even apply to people in high-risk, vulnerable populations, he said, citing a massive outbreak at San Quentin State Prison, which has been sending its tests to Quest. The state is now looking at partnering with local labs, hoping they can provide faster turnaround.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said the long waits spell trouble for individuals and complicate the national response to the pandemic.

“It defeats the usefulness of the test,” he said. “We need to find a way to make testing more robust so people can function and know if they can resume normal activities or go back to work.”

The problem is that labs running the tests are overwhelmed as demand has soared in the past month.

Azza Altiraifi of Vienna, Virginia, got her COVID test at CVS on July 1. She still has symptoms, including fatigue — but as of July 7, she was still awaiting the result.(Courtesy of Azza Altiraifi)

“We recognize that these test results contain actionable information necessary to guide treatment and inform public health efforts,” said Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, a trade group. “As laboratories respond to unprecedented spikes in demand for testing, we recognize our continued responsibility to deliver accurate and reliable results as quickly as possible.”

Dr Temple Robinson, CEO of Bond Community Health Center in Tallahassee, Florida, said test results have gone from a three-day turnaround to 10 days in the past several weeks. Many poor patients don’t have the ability to easily isolate from others because they live in smaller homes with other people. “People are trying to play by the rules, but you are not giving them the tools to help them if they do not know if they tested positive or negative,” she said.

“If we are not getting people results for at least seven or eight days, it’s an exercise in futility because either people are much worse or they are better” by then, she said.

Given the lag in testing results from big lab companies, Robinson said her health centre this month bought a rapid test machine. She held off buying the machine due to concerns the tests produced a high number of false-negative results but went ahead earlier this month in order to curtail the long waits, she said.

Robinson doesn’t blame the large labs and points instead to the surge in testing. “We are all drinking through a firehose, and none of the labs was prepared for this volume of testing,” she said. “It’s a very scary time.”

Azza Altiraifi, 26, of Vienna, Virginia, knows that all too well. She started feeling sick with respiratory symptoms and had trouble breathing on June 28. Within a few days, she had chills, aches and joint pain and then a needling sensation in her feet. She went to her local CVS to get tested on July 1. She was still awaiting the result of July 8.

What is most frustrating about her situation is that her husband is a paramedic, and his employer won’t let him work because he may have been exposed to the virus. He was tested July 6 and is still awaiting news.

“This is completely absurd,” Altiraifi said. She also worries that her husband may have unknowingly passed on the virus on one of his ambulance calls to nursing homes and other care facilities before he began isolating at home. He has not shown any symptoms.

Altiraifi, who still has symptoms including fatigue, said she was initially told she would have resulted in two to four days, but she was suspicious because after using a nasal swab to give herself the test, the box to put it in was so full it was hard to close.

Charlie Rice-Minoso, a spokesperson for CVS Health, said patients are waiting five to seven days on average for test results. “As demand for tests has increased, we’ve seen test result turnaround times vary due to temporary processing capacity limitations with our lab partners, which they are working to address,” he said.

In South Florida, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which has tested tens of thousands of patients since March, said findings are taking seven to nine days, several days longer than in the spring.

CityMD, a large urgent care chain in the New York City area, said it now tells patients they will likely wait at least seven days for results because of delays at Quest Diagnostics.

Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest lab companies in the United States, said average turnaround time has increased from three to five days to four to six days in the past two weeks. The company has performed nearly 7 million COVID tests this year.

“Quest is doing everything it can to add testing capacity to reduce turnaround times for patients and providers amid this crisis and the unprecedented demands it places on lab providers,” said spokesperson Kimberly Gorode.

At Treasure Coast Community Health in Vero Beach, Florida, officials are advising patients of a 10- to 12-day wait for results.

CEO Vicki Soule said Treasure Coast is deluged with calls every day from patients wanting to know where their test results are.

“The anxiety on the calls is way up,” she said.

Julie Hall, 48, of Chantilly, Virginia, got tested June 27 at an urgent care centre after learning that her husband had tested positive for COVID-19 as he prepared for hip replacement surgery. She was dismayed to have to wait until July 3 to get an answer.

“I was thrilled to be negative, but by that point, it likely did not matter,” she said, noting that neither she nor her husband, Chris, showed any symptoms.

“It was awful and terrible because of the unknowns and not knowing if you exposed someone else,” she said of being quarantined at home awaiting results. “Whenever you would sneeze, someone would say ‘COVID’ even though you feel completely fine.”

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Coronavirus Briefing: Schools plan for the fall, beachgoer shaming, and a patient-confidence rebound

It was another week of coronavirus trend lines zigging where we wanted them to zag, and it happened to coincide with – and largely gut – one of the year’s hallowed long weekends in the U.S. We chose to be angrier about this turn of circumstance than we did the neglect and indifference that birthed it in the first place. At least our stagnation on mitigation is somewhat counterbalanced by optimism on the vaccine and therapeutic fronts. Man, do we need that vaccine if only for the hope it can restore.

This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,261 words and will take you seven minutes to read.

The schools

It’s almost cliché at this point: We can’t truly resuscitate the economy until we find a way to send our children back to school safely and lessen childcare demands on working parents. But sending them back to school safely demands we stop the virus in its tracks, a task for which we may or may not lack the necessary will. September feels a long way away.

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a comprehensive (and oft-updated) look at the nation’s emergence from and possible return to lockdown, with an emphasis on state data and policy considerations.
  • Columbia University Teachers College professor Sarah Cohodes argues in The Atlantic that “A Better Fall Is Possible” if opening schools becomes the top priority for those states in a position to do so safely.

The Takeaway

My five-year-old interrupted me four times in the minute it took to write this sentence, which ordinarily would’ve been a three-second endeavor. Help. Let’s get this one right.

Daily Life In New York City Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Source: Getty

The great outdoors/not-great indoors

It’s summertime and we all want to be outside – at least until the stronger-than-usual hurricane season some experts are predicting sends us scrambling for cover. The good news is we can avail ourselves of the season’s warm air and sunlight, not to mention the frosty beverages and charred meat stuffs that often go hand in hand with them, so long as we wear masks and maintain respectful distances. In conclusion, let’s wear masks and maintain respectful distances.

  • Visits to U.K. parks and green spaces are up 300%, Matthew Appleby notes in Horticulture Week.
  • When Civic Science asked U.S. adults which of a handful of options would make them most likely to resume non-grocery retail experiences, 41% said mask requirements, 14% said confirmed/visible disinfecting practices and another 14% said limitations on the number of patrons allowed in the store at once. Twenty percent responded none of the above.

The Takeaway

Outside activities conducted safely and responsibly are good. Basement keggers are not – not now, anyway. Please wear a mask and kindly decline all basement kegger invitations.

linkedin marketing covid19

The communicators

There continue to be many lemonade-out-of-lemons success stories in and around the worlds of communication and marketing. Here’s to doing whatever we can to amplifying those stories, because any number of the approaches translate easily across verticals.

  • Damon Jones, who assumed the lead communications role at Procter & Gamble at the start of the coronavirus crisis, topped PRWeek’s annual Power List. He becomes the first Black executive to hold that distinction.
  • MM&M debuts an excerpt from an upcoming feature on health media during the coronavirus era. In it, Gather’s Dr. Judith Simmons weighs in on social-media follows and coverage blind spots. MM&M has also unveiled #CreateHealthEquity, an initiative advocating for more equal and thus better healthcare outcomes amid COVID-19.

The Takeaway

Those looking for marketing and communication role models can find at least 10 of them in the stories above. Follow these leaders.

Woman carrying brown boxes from house
Source: Getty

The dislocation

An underrated heartbreak of the COVID-19 crisis is the way it has splintered any number of functioning units – families, communities, workplaces – in a manner that doesn’t allow for easy reassembly. It’s going to take longer to fully assess the damage and pick up the pieces than it will to engineer a vaccine.

  • The test-administration and -processing situation isn’t much better in the world of nursing homes, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News notes.

The Takeaway

It’s hard to wrap your head around all the loss and dislocation we’ve suffered during the last four months. As somebody who does so every week for this briefing, I recommend against even trying. Here’s to the day when we’re whole again.

The rest

  • A Healthgrades study found patient confidence has reached its highest level since March. Nearly 70% of respondents said they would feel comfortable starting a new treatment within the next two months, while 60% said they would feel comfortable visiting their primary care physician.

Thanks again for reading. We’ll be back with the next Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing on Wednesday, July 15. Here’s hoping the sun is shining wherever you happen to be.

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Shingles Vaccination Rate Soars But Leaves Many Behind

Worried about the high cost of the copayment for the shingles vaccine, Jacky Felder, a Medicare beneficiary, opted against getting immunized last year.

Last month, the Green Bay, Wisconsin, woman developed the disease, which left a painful, itchy rash across her abdomen. “Luckily, I’ve had a relatively mild case, but it’s been a week and half with a lot of pain,” said Felder, 69.

Felder is far from alone. Nationally, about 35% of people 60 and older were vaccinated for shingles by 2018, up from about 7% in 2008, according to a report released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report also shows low-income adults and those who are Black or Hispanic are far less likely to get vaccinated than whites. About 39% of non-Hispanic white adults were vaccinated for shingles by 2018, compared with about 19% of Hispanic and Black adults, the report found.

Those findings are consistent with disparities for other adult vaccines.

Adults with incomes under the federal poverty level ($12,760 for an individual) were only half as likely to get immunized as those with annual incomes of more than $25,000, the report said.

Cara James, CEO of the nonprofit Grantmakers in Health and former director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites not to have health insurance or a regular health provider, which may help account for their lower vaccination rates. They are also likely to have less income to afford the shot.

The lower vaccination rates for Blacks and Hispanics have implications for when and if a vaccine is developed for COVID-19, she said. Even though they are more likely to have the coronavirus and experience more severe cases of COVID-19, Blacks and Hispanics may not be at the front of the line to get vaccinated because of costs and other factors.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, which can remain in the body inactive for years. For about a third of adults, it can reactivate as shingles, often presenting as a painful rash anywhere on the body.

The drugmaker Merck offered the first shingles vaccine, Zostavax, in the U.S. in 2006. In late 2017, a newer and more effective vaccine, Shingrix, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and this month Merck stopped selling its product.

Shingrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is 97% effective in preventing the disease in adults ages 50 to 69, compared with about 51% for Zostavax. The CDC recommends that everyone over 50 — including those who were vaccinated with Zostavax — get Shingrix. No prescription is required.

The Affordable Care Act required that preventive health services, including vaccines, be provided to people with private health insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. But people with Medicare were excluded.

While Medicare beneficiaries get free vaccinations for the flu and pneumonia, they often have to pay for other vaccines, including the shingle shots. The payments are set by their Medicare drug plan.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said he recommends his patients get the Shingrix vaccine before they turn 65 and enroll in Medicare. He faults Congress for adding costs for Medicare enrollees to get vaccinated.

“We’ve seen a substantial portion of the population receive the vaccine, but it is far from the goal of 100%,” Schaffner said.

GlaxoSmithKline said the average Medicare enrollee pays $50 for each of two doses of the vaccine, which are typically given a few months apart.

For people without insurance, Shingrix costs about $300 for the two doses.

Besides cost, another factor that may play into the low rate of vaccinations is access. Demand for Shingrix led to a shortage of the vaccine shortly after its launch, but GlaxoSmithKline officials say they now have plenty to distribute.

About 17 million people have received at least one dose of Shingrix, although the shots are recommended for more than 100 million people, spokesperson Sean Clements said. In comparison, he said between 20 million and 25 million people received Zostavax after 14 years on the market.

Dr. Anjali Mahoney, a family physician in Los Angeles and vice chair for clinical affairs at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, said she was pleased to hear about the big increase in people getting the vaccine.

“About 1 in 3 people get shingles in their lifetime, and that is not something you want to get,” she said. Complications and pain from shingles, she added, can last for years, long after the rash has disappeared.

But she said that the cost barriers to vaccination for Medicare beneficiaries are keeping the numbers lower than they should be.

Felder, whose income is limited to her Social Security payments, said even $50 per dose would be too much for her to pay for the shingles vaccine. She hopes to get vaccinated if she receives another federal stimulus check.

“It isn’t right that people on Medicare have to pay for this, because for a lot of people, shingles can make them very sick,” Felder said.
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Arthur Sadoun warns of ‘very tough days’ ahead as Publicis fights to return to growth

Arthur Sadoun, chief executive and chairman of Publicis Groupe, has warned that there are still tough days ahead and the “fight is only starting” as the world begins to emerge from lockdown.

In his final Sunday video message yesterday (5 July) to all Publicis employees, he thanked everyone for making decisions that protect the business, such as recruiting from within.

Sadoun said: “Since day one, you have made the right decisions to protect our agencies by not going outside of the group for recruitment, freelancers and third-party suppliers. In a matter of weeks, you created resource allocation platforms to save as many jobs as possible against the revenue decline we have seen in many agencies.”

He also praised staff for their response in coming up with measures against racism after the Black Lives Matter protests. He added: “In the last month following the terrible events taking place in the US, you have come together in many countries to accelerate our diversity and inclusion agenda, and implement strong measures against racism and inequality.”

However, Sadoun warned that this is not the end of the fight against coronavirus, explaining that the economic situation is not set to improve any time soon and clients will continue to increase pressure on agencies.

He continued: “Let’s be clear, the fight is only starting. Very tough days are still ahead. We will have to live with the virus. The economic context won’t get better soon. And the client pressure will continue to increase. But we should be confident that we have the organisation, the products and a team that is stronger than ever to face these challenges.

“So this is my last Sunday film, as next weekend I will be back on the road to meet some of you and see some clients with the necessary social distance. From now on, I’ll be spending most of my time with many of you on clients and new business. Returning to growth must the number-one priority for all of us.”

Sadoun has been delivering a video message to staff every Sunday since March, when many countries began their coronavirus lockdowns.
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Analysis: How A COVID-19 Vaccine Could Cost Americans Dearly

Yes, of course, Americans’ health is priceless and reining in a deadly virus that has trashed the economy would be invaluable.

But a COVID-19 vaccine will have an actual price tag. And given the prevailing business-centric model of American drug pricing, it could well be budget-breaking, perhaps making it unavailable to many.

The last vaccine to quell a global viral scourge was the polio inoculation, which ended outbreaks that killed thousands and paralyzed tens of thousands each year in the United States. The March of Dimes Foundation covered the nominal drug cost for a free national vaccination program.

It came in the mid-1950s before health insurance for outpatient care was common before new drugs were protected by multiple patents before medical research was regarded as a way to become rich. It was not patented because it was not considered patentable under the standards at the time.

Now we are looking for viral deliverance when drug development is one of the world’s most lucrative businesses, ownership of drug patents is disputed in endless court battles, and monopoly power often lets manufacturers set any price, no matter how extraordinary. New cancer treatment can cost a half-million dollars, and old staples like insulin have risen manifold in price to thousands of dollars annually.

And the American government has no effective way to fight back.

Recent vaccines targeting more limited populations, such as a meningitis B vaccine for college students and the shingles vaccine for older adults, have a retail cost of $300 to $400 for a full course.

If a COVID-19 vaccine yields a price of, say, $500 a course, vaccinating the entire population would bring a company over $150 billion, almost all of it profit.

Dr. Kevin Schulman, a physician-economist at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, called that amount “staggering.” But Katherine Baicker, dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, said that from society’s perspective “$150 billion might not be an unreasonable sum” to pay to tame an epidemic that has left millions unemployed and cost the economy trillions.

Every other developed country has evolved schemes to set or negotiate prices, while balancing cost, efficacy and social good. The United States instead has let business calculations drive drug price tags, forcing us to accept and absorb ever higher costs. That feels particularly galling for treatments and vaccines against COVID-19, whose development and production is being subsidized and incentivized with billions in federal investment.

When AZT, the first effective drug for combating the virus that causes AIDS, was introduced in 1992, it was priced at up to $10,000 a year or about $800 a month. It was the most expensive prescription drug in history, at that time. The price was widely denounced as “inhuman.” Today that price gets you some drugs for toenail fungus.

Investors already smell big money for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The market cap of Moderna, a small Boston-area company that has partnered with the National Institutes of Health in the vaccine race, has tripled since Feb. 20, to $23 billion from $7 billion, turning its chief executive into an overnight billionaire. While Moderna’s vaccine is regarded as a strong contender, the company has never brought a successful drug to market.

Manufacturers have traditionally claimed that only the lure of windfall profits would encourage them to take the necessary risks, since drug development is expensive and there’s no way of knowing whether they’re putting their money on a horse that will finish first, or scratch.

More recently they have justified high prices by comparing them with the costs they would prevent. Expensive hepatitis C drugs, they say, avoid the need for a $1 million liver transplant. No matter that the comparison being made is to the highly inflated costs of treating disease in American hospitals.

Such logic would be disastrous if it were applied to a successful COVID vaccine. COVID-19 has shut down countless businesses, creating record-high unemployment. And the medical consequences of severe COVID-19 mean weeks of highly expensive intensive care.

“Maybe the economic value of the COVID vaccine is a trillion — and even if the expense to the company was a billion, that’s 1,000 times return on investment,” said Schulman. “No economic theory would support that.”

In 2015, the Senate Finance Committee came up with a simpler explanation for high drug prices. After reviewing 20,000 pages of company documents, it found that Gilead Sciences had what the committee’s ranking Democratic member, Ron Wyden of Oregon, called “a calculated scheme for pricing and marketing its hepatitis C drug based on one primary goal, maximizing revenue.”

In setting prices, drugmakers rarely acknowledge the considerable federal funding and research that have helped develop their products; they have not offered taxpayer-investors financial payback.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a federal agency known as BARDA, is giving Moderna up to $483 million for the late-stage development of its vaccine.

The basic science that has allowed the small company to move so rapidly was developed with a huge prior infusion of federal money to come up with a treatment for diseases like Zika.

Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, has said the government has some intellectual property rights. Moderna seems to dispute that view, saying it is “not aware of any I.P. that would prevent us from commercializing” a COVID-19 vaccine.

Likewise, AstraZeneca, a top competitor, has received a BARDA promise of up to $1.2 billion for commercializing a product derived from research at the University of Oxford.

There is no simple, direct mechanism for regulators or legislators to control pricing. Our laws, in fact, favor business: Medicare is not allowed to engage in price negotiations for medicines covered by its Part D drug plan. The Food and Drug Administration, which will have to approve the manufacturer’s vaccine for use as “safe and effective,” is not allowed to consider proposed cost. The panels that recommend approval of new drugs generally have no idea how they will be priced.

“The idea that we would allow ourselves to be held hostage in an emergency is mind-boggling,” said David Mitchell, head of Patients for Affordable Drugs, an advocacy group.

That’s why a bipartisan coalition in the House recently proposed two new bills to prevent “price gouging” for “taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs” to ensure affordable pricing.

The exact mechanisms for enacting the provisions therein — such as requiring manufacturers to reveal their development costs — remain unclear. The industry has previously protected development data as a trade secret. The bills would also require “reasonable pricing clauses” to be included in agreements between drug companies and agencies funding their work. They propose waiving exclusive licenses for COVID-19 drugs, allowing competitors to sell the same products as long as they pay the patent holder royalties.

Other countries, such as Britain, take a more head-on approach: a national body does a cost-benefit analysis regarding the price at which a new drug is worth being made available to its citizens. Health authorities then use that information to negotiate with a drugmaker on price and to develop a national reimbursement plan.

We could, too, but would need to consider mechanisms outside of our current box — at least for this national emergency.

The federal government could, for example, invoke a never-before-used power called “march-in rights,” through which it can override a patent holder’s rights if it doesn’t make its medicines “available to the public on reasonable terms.” (Unfortunately, in already-signed agreements with BARDA, some drugmakers have explicitly watered down or eliminated that proviso.)

We could, alternatively, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices — a proposal that has been raised by politicians and beaten back by industry again and again. We would then need to restrict markup for a COVID-19 vaccine for the private market. Otherwise, we’d get the kinds of results emerging from the COVID testing industry, where Medicare pays $100 for the test but some labs charge insurers over $2,000.

There is already reason to worry that our deliverance from the coronavirus will cost us plenty. BARDA paid AztraZeneca up to $1.2 billion in development, production, and delivery of its candidate vaccine, in order to secure 300 million doses in October. Britain paid the equivalent of $80 million to secure 100 million doses in September — one-fifth of what the United States government agreed to pay per dose.

Baicker, the public policy school dean, thinks public scrutiny will prevent outrageous pricing. The industry has made various pledges, trying to balance corporate citizenship against making eager investors happy: Astra Zeneca has promised 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries. Johnson & Johnson says it would make the COVID-19 vaccine available on a “not for profit basis” at $10 for “emergency pandemic use.”

We’ve heard such offers before. Pharmaceutical companies routinely provide coupons to cover patient copayments for expensive drugs so that we don’t squawk when they charge our insurance company tens of thousands for the medicine, driving up premiums year after year. A naloxone injector to reverse heroin overdoses is given free to some clinics but priced at thousands for the rest.

And it won’t feel like a bargain if we get free or cheap vaccines during a pandemic but pay dearly for annual COVID-19 shots thereafter.

Drug companies deserve a reasonable profit for taking on this urgent task of creating a COVID-19 vaccine. But we deserve a return, too.

So before these invaluable vaccines hit the market, we should talk about an actual price. Otherwise, we will be stuck paying dearly for shots that the rest of the world will get for much less.
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Coronavirus Crisis Disrupts Treatment For Another Epidemic: Addiction

Shawn Hayes was thankful to be holed up at a city-run hotel for people with COVID-19.

The 20-year-old wasn’t in jail. He wasn’t on the streets chasing drugs. Methadone to treat his opioid addiction was delivered to his door.

Hayes was staying at the hotel because of a coronavirus outbreak at the 270-bed Kirkbride Center addiction treatment center in Philadelphia, where he had been seeking help.

From early April to early May, 46 patients at Kirkbride tested positive for the virus and were isolated. The facility is now operating at about half-capacity because of the pandemic.

Drug rehabs around the country — including in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Florida — have experienced flare-ups of the coronavirus or COVID-related financial difficulties that have forced them to close or limit operations. Centers that serve the poor have been hit particularly hard.

And that has left people who have another potentially deadly disease — addiction — with fewer opportunities for treatment while threatening to reverse their recovery gains.

“It’s hard to underestimate the effects of the pandemic on the community with opioid use disorder,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The pandemic has profoundly disrupted the drug markets. Normally that would drive more people to treatment. Yet treatment is harder to come by.”

Keeping Clients Safe

Drug rehabs aren’t as much of a COVID “tinderbox” as nursing homes, Alexander said, but both are communal settings where social distancing can be difficult.

Shared spaces, double-occupancy bedrooms, and group therapy are common in rehabs. People struggling with addiction are generally younger than nursing home residents, but both populations are vulnerable because they’re more likely to suffer from other health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, that leave them at risk of succumbing to COVID-19.

To keep clients safe, some addiction treatment centers employ safety precautions similar to hospitals, like testing all incoming patients for COVID-19, noted Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. But drug rehabs must avoid some strategies, such as keeping potentially intoxicating hand sanitizer on the premises.

Adalja said he hopes safety measures make people feel more comfortable about seeking addiction help.

“There’s not going to be anything that’s zero risks, in the absence of a vaccine,” he said. “But this is in a different category than going to a birthday party. You don’t want to postpone needed medical care.”

Still, some people requiring drug or alcohol rehab have stayed away for fear of contracting COVID-19. Marvin Ventrell, CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, said many of its roughly 1,000 members saw their patient numbers down by much as 40% to 50% in March and April before bouncing back to 80%.

Unlike many other centers, Recovery Works, a 42-bed treatment center in Merrillville, Indiana, has seen more clients than normal during the pandemic. The facility had to close for a few days early on after a suspected COVID-19 case, but reopened after the person tested negative. It has since split its therapy sessions into three groups, staggered mealtimes and banned visitors, CEO Thomas Delegatto said. It then had an influx of patients.

“I think there are a variety of reasons why,” Delegatto said. “A person who was struggling with a substance use disorder, and who was laid off and a nonessential worker, might have seen this as an opportunity to go to treatment without having to explain to their employer why they’re taking two, three, four weeks off.”

He also noted that alcohol sales went up at the beginning of the pandemic as anxiety and isolation rose, and sheltering in place may have made some families realize that a loved one needed help for an addiction.

Kirkbride Center, an addiction treatment center in Philadelphia, is running at about half-capacity after a recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Fred Baurer, Kirkbride’s medical director, says, “I’m starting to feel more confident we’re past the worst of this, at least for now.” (Courtesy of Dr. Fred Baurer)

Centers Serving The Poor Hit Hard

Homeless and poor Americans, because they often live in close quarters, have been particularly prone to catching COVID-19 — leaving drug rehabs dedicated to this population especially vulnerable.

Haymarket Center, a 380-bed treatment and sober living facility in Chicago’s West Loop that serves many people who are homeless, recently had an outbreak of 55 coronavirus cases among clients and staff members.

Two employees there tested positive for COVID-19 in late February, but testing was available then only for people showing symptoms, said Haymarket president and CEO Dan Lustig.

Haymarket worked with nearby Rush University Medical Center to test its clients. Twenty-six men, though asymptomatic, were found to be positive for COVID-19.

The center isolated those patients and eventually went from double- to single-occupancy rooms, improved its air filtration system and changed the way it served food. It now tests all new admissions.

“What we found was by doing serial testing we could tamp down the epidemic, not just at Haymarket but the whole city,” said Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president for community health equity at Rush, which partnered with the city and other health systems on a COVID-19 response for Chicago’s homeless population.

The pandemic’s economic fallout has also forced some facilities to scale back. The Salvation Army is shuttering a handful of its roughly 100 adult rehabilitation centers nationwide due to COVID-related revenue losses. Those rehabs were funded by the organization’s resale shops, which were forced to close during stay-at-home orders.

“A lot of what we do relies on donations or items that were donated and then sold in our stores,” said Alberto Rapley, who oversees business development for the Salvation Army’s rehab facilities in the Midwest. “When financially we struggle, that is then felt on the other side.”

For instance, the Salvation Army drug rehab in Gary, Indiana, which is set to close in September, treated as many as 80 men at a time in its free, abstinence-based program. The next closest facility will be in Chicago, more than 30 miles away.

Outbreak Contained, But Beds Still Limited

Philadelphia’s Kirkbride Center also serves a mostly homeless and low-income population. Dr. Fred Baurer, the facility’s medical director, said Kirkbride was “flying blind” early in the pandemic, with little testing capacity and personal protective equipment.

On April 8, the first COVID-19 case appeared on Kirkbride’s long-term men’s wing. Over the next week, six more men on the unit showed symptoms and tested positive, as did 12 of the remaining 22. All quarantined at a local Holiday Inn Express.

Kirkbride started requiring face masks, testing all new clients for COVID-19 and prohibiting people in its various units from mingling.

The rehab has been about half-full lately — it’s usually closer to 90% occupied — partly because it stopped taking walk-in clients and confined new admissions to single rooms.

“I’m starting to feel more confident we’re past the worst of this, at least for now,” Baurer said.

Hayes, who has recovered from COVID-19 without experiencing any symptoms, was discharged from the facility June 15 to a sober living house. He plans to attend 12-step meetings regularly. He hopes to get his GED and eventually enter the mental health field.

He recognizes the need to stay vigilant about his recovery now, at a time of increased anxiety and despair.

“Regardless of the coronavirus or not, the addiction crisis is still there,” Hayes said. “It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
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Excerpt: Health media in the COVID-19 era

For a feature set to be published in the July/August issue of MM&M, we reached out to leaders from a broad range of media-adjacent organizations – WebMD, Health magazine, Outcome Health, Mesmerize, Publicis Health Media, CMI/Compas, Pascale Communications and WEGO Health, among others – and asked them a range of questions about the broader media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. In this preview, we share responses from Dr. Judith Simmons, managing director of healthcare at Gather, founder of Lion Head Advisors and one of the health-media world’s most thoughtful voices.

Who have been your COVID-19 must-follows on social media?

Disclaimer: I’m a physician, so my picks might be a bit more clinical than most. Although I’m not currently active in clinical practice, I’ve been a “doctor on call” since March for my family, friends, clients and colleagues. I’ve been educating and advising about the virus SARS COV-2 and the disease it causes.

My aim in using social media has been to gather as much information as I could on the science, the epidemiology, the clinical aspects and the impact on the healthcare system. As a result, my must-follows are skewed in that direction – as well as towards New York, where I live and work.

There’s been so much terrific writing. Good curation has been key, and I have relied on trusted sites to guide me to important original sources. COVID updates from The New York Times, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, STAT, Nature Briefing, Science, The COVID Tracking Project, The New England Journal of Medicine, Kaiser Health News and the CDC have kept up with the rapid pace of important information.

I rely on my social media feeds for breaking news and up-to-the minute information from leaders like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who took decisive actions and kept the people of New York State exceptionally well informed. Current and former officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Tom Frieden and Andy Slavitt are experienced and valued voices.

Who have been the most authoritative and effective COVID-19 writers and voices in traditional media?

The New York Times has stood out in providing local, national and global views, reporting on the science and publishing beautiful data visualizations that have helped make information clear for readers. The NYT has also done a great job at communicating the human stories nationally and internationally, especially in the early months of the pandemic. Gothamist, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Atlantic have consistently delivered quality in-depth articles.

Is there a piece of reporting or a feature story or even a social-media thread published between mid-March and now that sticks with you as especially smart, funny, touching or otherwise prescient?

Hearing from a wide range of people on the front lines has been so important from the beginning. Not only the voices and stories of essential workers in healthcare, education, groceries, restaurants and pastoral and funeral care, but also the voices and stories of those managing lockdown in remarkably creative and adaptive ways.

Dr. Craig Smith, chair of the Department of Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, started writing a series of daily letters that spanned a 50,000-foot overview to the ground level of his hospital. He shared important information with perspective, warmth, context and occasionally poetry. Each letter was a realistic and human assessment of the moment and collectively they have become a narrative of the pandemic.

What, if anything, has been missing or shortchanged in COVID-related coverage during the last few months?

The unprecedented breadth of achievements in six months related to this virus and pandemic. It is the novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2. COVID-19 is a totally new disease and when I look back on what has been accomplished in basic science, therapeutics, clinical management, vaccine development, transmission and adjustments in how people live and work – in just months – it’s amazing.

It matters because we need to use the growing bank of facts and science that we have learned to guide us as we move ahead. We know a lot more now. The science has moved rapidly and there has been terrific collaboration at times. But there have also been serious missteps along the way, and we need to learn from all of it. It is by nature a nuanced conversation but one that is essential for the media to share with the public. Politics may impact what we do and how we act, but it has no impact on how the virus spreads, replicates and causes disease.

As the country continues to reopen – and, in some cases, re-close – what are the three things that you’d most like to see in health-media coverage?

In light of the current surge, somehow we haven’t communicated a clear understanding of how the virus is transmitted, how pandemics grow and how one person’s actions may affect others. Mask wearing has become politicized, rather than normalized, and that must change.

Despite all the public service announcements, we’re still not getting the message across. We need to work on that. We know so much more than we did even three months ago. We’ve got to keep refreshing people’s knowledge and presenting essential information in all ways across all platforms.

Information can both allay people’s fears and give them guidance on how to think about the future while keeping the pandemic at bay. This virus is not going away and we will have to adapt to it. We have to adjust how we interact, how we work, how we teach, how we play, how we celebrate and how we vote. More coverage of innovations and solutions needs to be shared, along with stories that capture COVID challenges economically, socially and emotionally.

The media should embrace the opportunity to address long-standing issues – health disparities based on race, income and neighborhood, and insufficient services for behavioral health – that have long been under-reported. The glaring implications of not having universal access or a truly comprehensive healthcare system has to be covered. So should the need to support our public health organizations at the local, state, federal and international levels.

The post Excerpt: Health media in the COVID-19 era appeared first on MM&M – Medical Marketing and Media.
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