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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Amid Covid-19, federal minority health experts are conspicuously silent

Even as Black, Hispanic, and Native American individuals have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Trump administration's leading minority health experts have been conspicuously quiet and haven't done much outreach to the communities most affected by the novel coronavirus. The directors of two federal minority health offices have not conducted TV or radio interviews since the beginning of the pandemic, for instance, and neither have they appeared at a briefing along with the rest of the White House's coronavirus task force. STAT's Lev Facher has more from Washington here

Here's what else is happening with Covid-19: 

  • At a much-anticipated campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday, President Trump told the gathered crowd (most of whom were not wearing masks) that, “Testing is a double-edged sword,” and that extensive testing is also going to mean more cases. “[S]o I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” White House officials have since tried to explain that Trump was joking and that his comment was "tongue in cheek." 
  • The WHO yesterday reported the largest single-day increase in Covid-19 cases — more than 183,000 — around the world. Seven U.S. states, including Florida, South Carolina, and Missouri, also saw a record number of daily cases over the weekend. Florida hit a record of 4,049 cases on Saturday, while South Carolina reported 1,155 new cases. And on Friday, Brazil reported nearly 55,000 cases in a single day, the world record for any country during the pandemic so far, and crossed over 1 million total cases. For more of the latest figures, check out STAT's Covid-19 Tracker
  • The NIH has halted its trial testing the use of hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19, concluding that the malaria drug is unlikely to be beneficial for those hospitalized with the infection. 

Black female physicians will have a chance to amplify their work on Twitter today

Inspired by a movement launched earlier this month to amplify the voices of Black women, a group of Black female physicians will be taking over the Twitter accounts of prominent non-Black physicians to connect with audiences they may not otherwise reach. As part of the #ShareTheMicNowMed event, at least 10 female physicians with smaller Twitter followings will be tweeting from accounts run by non-Black physicians — many of whom have tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Northwestern University-based pediatrician Rebekah Fenton, who will be taking over the Twitter account of Stanford internist Lucy Kalanithi, tells me that she hopes today's event "allows the brilliance of Black women and [their] work to shine even brighter," she says, adding, "I also hope this practice helps ... those interested in healthcare to think more about the voices they follow and incorporate more diversity, especially if it highlights different perspectives." 

Parents may be more likely to quit smoking with messages about the impact on kids' health

Parents who are smokers say they would be more likely to quit if messages about cessation included information about the harm to children. Researchers surveyed 180 parent smokers, who were asked to choose from a series of informational messages about smoking cessation. Messages that were framed around the impact of cigarettes on children's health, including about secondhand smoke, consistently ranked higher than framing around the effects on family or individual health. Messages around the financial impact of cigarette smoking — whether on the child, family, or parent — ranked among the lowest. Future research should evaluate the best way to deliver messages about the impact of smoking on children to parents, the researchers suggest. 

Inside STAT: Can Akili's prescription video game actually make money?


Akili's video game, EndeavorRx, got the green light from the FDA earlier this month. (Akili)

The long-standing question with Akili Interactive Labs was whether it could convince the FDA to approve its digital therapeutic — a video-game-based intervention for kids with ADHD. The Boston-based company got that green light from the agency last week, and a new question now looms: Can Akili show that its prescription game, called EndeavorRx, can make money? The answer to that question not only has implications for Akili, but also for other companies who are developing digital therapeutics and are considering how physicians will prescribe these interventions and how insurance companies may pay for them. STAT Plus subscribers can read more from STAT's Rebecca Robbins here

Taxing drinks' sugar content, not beverage volume, may lead to more health benefits and savings

A new analysis of three different types of sugary drink taxes finds that taxes based on the amount of sugar in beverages could generate the most health benefits and save the most in health spending. Here's more from the study, which simulated what instituting the different tax types would look like: 

  • Volume-based taxes: These taxes, which are calculated based on the volume of a sugary beverage, were associated with preventing 850,000 cardiovascular incidents and 269,000 diabetes cases. These taxes also reduced health care spending by more than $53 billion. 
  • Tiered taxes: These have different taxation levels depending on the amount of sugar per 8 ounces, and could prevent 531,000 diabetes cases, while saving $105 billion in health spending. 
  • Absolute content taxes: These include a flat tax based on the total amount of added sugar in a given drink, and could prevent 550,000 diabetes cases, and also save $105 billion in health care costs. 

Funding for health infrastructure has declined in Canada recently

Funding for long-term investments such as building hospitals and other health facilities has declined in recent years in Canada, according to a new study. Researchers examined how health care spending and investment in health care infrastructure, known as capital funding, have changed in Canada since 1998, and found that although capital funding has grown from $2.3 billion to $8.1 billion annually, it's still a lower percentage of Canada's GDP compared to other Western countries, including the U.S. and France. At the same time, health care capital funding experienced large swings, going from a 6% increase in spending in 2012 to almost a 4% decline in 2017. But just an increase in capital funding won't solve the problem, the authors write, adding that such funding should also be overseen in way that's fair, transparent, and ethical to protect the public's trust. 

What to read around the web today

  • The promise and peril of virtual health care. The New Yorker
  • Second deadliest Ebola outbreak ever is days from being declared over. STAT
  • 8 hospitals in 15 Hours: A pregnant woman’s crisis in the pandemic. The New York Times
  • What a negative Covid-19 test really means. The Atlantic
  • Inside the Trump administration’s decision to leave the World Health Organization. ProPublica

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Monday, June 22, 2020

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