Thursday, May 16, 2024 – KFF Health News

Hawaii Study: Respiratory, Lung Issues Plague Many Maui Wildfire Survivors

The Washington Post and AP report on a new University of Hawaii study on the effects of the Lahaina wildfire. Researchers found, among other things, that up to 74% of the 679 people surveyed had elevated blood pressure levels, meaning a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Other news from around the nation comes from California, Missouri, North Carolina, West Virginia, Connecticut, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, and more.

Hawaii Study Shows Almost 75% Of Maui Wildfire Survey Participants Have Respiratory Issues

A University of Hawaii study examining the health effects of last year’s deadly wildfires on Maui found that up to 74% of participants may have difficulty breathing and otherwise have poor respiratory health, and almost half showed signs of compromised lung function. The data … comes from what researchers hope will be a long-term study of wildfire survivors lasting at least a decade. Researchers released early results from that research on Wednesday. (McAvoy, 5/16)

The Washington Post:
For Maui Fire Survivors, Health Conditions Are Worsening

In west Maui, thousands of people are living in the burn zones — in or near homes that absorbed heavy amounts of toxic smoke from the most deadly wildfire in U.S. history. Many residents say their health is compromised or declining because of exposure to ash, debris and smoke, according to a new health report released Wednesday and first reported by The Washington Post. (Sacks, 5/15)

On other developments across the country —

Lawmakers Demand Plan For Health Care Worker Minimum Wage

State lawmakers voiced frustration on Wednesday over a lack of detail on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promised $25-per-hour minimum wage for health care workers, saying they need to know soon as they work to pass his newly proposed budget. “We’ll have to see it soon, because we need to pass this budget in like a month,” Assembly Health Budget Chair Akilah Weber told administration representatives at a hearing Wednesday. (Bluth, 5/15)

KFF Health News:
California’s $12 Billion Medicaid Makeover Banks On Nonprofits’ Buy-In

For much of his young life, Jorge Sanchez regularly gasped for air, at times coughing so violently that he’d almost throw up. His mother whisked him to the emergency room late at night and slept with him to make sure he didn’t stop breathing. “He’s had these problems since he was born, and I couldn’t figure out what was triggering his asthma,” Fabiola Sandoval said of her son, Jorge, now 4. “It’s so hard when your child is hurting. I was willing to try anything.” (Hart, 5/16)

Missouri Lawmakers Renew Crucial $4B Medicaid Tax Program

Missouri’s GOP-led Legislature on Wednesday renewed a more than $4 billion Medicaid program that had been blocked for months by a Republican faction that used it as a bargaining tool. The bill which now heads to Gov. Mike Parson will renew a longstanding tax on hospitals and other medical providers. Money from the tax is used to draw down $2.9 billion in federal funding, which is then given back to providers to care for low-income residents on Medicaid health care. (Ballentine, 5/15)

North Carolina Lawmakers Push Bill To Ban Most Public Mask Wearing, Citing Crime

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are pushing forward with their plan to repeal a pandemic-era law that allowed the wearing of masks in public for health reasons, a move spurred in part by demonstrations against the war in Gaza that have included masked protesters camped out on college campuses. The legislation cleared the Senate on Wednesday in a 30-15 vote along party lines despite several attempts by state Senate Democrats to change the bill. (Seminera, 5/16)

Missouri Independent:
Missouri Bill Restricting Pesticide Cancer Suits Faces Long Odds

Time is running out for legislation that would make it harder to sue pesticide manufacturers over claims their products cause cancer, with an unusual coalition of opponents working to ensure they’ve stalled the bill’s progress. The bill, critics argue, shields large corporations at the expense of everyday Missourians who have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they attribute to the use of pesticides formulated with glyphosate — most prominently, Roundup. (Kite, 5/16)

The CT Mirror:
CT’s ‘Food Insecure’ Population Rose By 90K In 2022, Report Finds

In a state that ranks among the top 10 wealthiest, nearly half a million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. One in eight Connecticut residents experienced “food insecurity” in 2022, rising from one in 10 in 2021, according to the latest annual “Map the Meal Gap” report from hunger-relief organization Feeding America. (Phillips, 5/15)

The Colorado Sun:
Colorado Looks To Get The Lead Out Of Aviation Fuel

The gas you put in your car has an octane rating between 85 and 91 in Colorado, but, to get off the ground, airplanes need a little more oomph. Standard aviation fuel for piston-engine aircraft — think Cessnas and other small planes —  has an octane rating of at least 100. But that extra pop comes with a price: The fuel typically has lead in it. (Ingold, 5/15)

Lexington Herald Leader:
2 More Whooping Cough Cases At Lexington Schools, 6 Total.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is spreading at Lexington schools with six total cases so far, and all central Kentucky families should look for symptoms while ensuring kids are up-to-date on their vaccines, Lexington-Fayette Health Department officials said Wednesday. Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It affects people of all ages but can be most serious in infants and those with chronic diseases., officials said. (Spears, 5/16)

The Current:
Louisiana Teens Travel Hours For Inpatient Mental Health Care

Until this year, there were no inpatient beds for children under 12 in Acadiana. Now, there are 10 beds available at the only local facility currently offering those services to patients under 18, but the resources still fall short compared to the growing need for adolescent mental health services. The area “is under-resourced for inpatient adolescent and pediatric needs, and really all psychiatric needs,” explained Dr. Foster Kordisch, who oversees Lafayette General’s emergency department. ERs are often the entry point into the mental health care system for those in crisis. (Maschkle, 5/8)

Cherokee Nation Medical School Graduates Its First Class

There are so few Indigenous physicians in the United States — just 0.3% of doctors — that their numbers barely show up in charts and graphs depicting the diversity of the medical workforce. But as of Thursday, there will be at least nine more. (McFarling, 5/16)

Billings Gazette:
Utilities Ignore Health Impacts Of Colstrip Pollution

Colstrip Power Plant owners and politicians are ignoring the public health impacts of air toxics emissions as they blame the EPA for costly air pollution controls, several health and environmental organizations said Tuesday. Since the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out tougher standards on mercury and air toxic emissions April 25, Montana elected officials and power plant owners have characterized the new rules as unreasonably expensive, a potential power plant killer for Colstrip. But the rules have been in the works for years and the health benefits going unmentioned are significant, said those speaking during a Tuesday press conference. (Lutey, 5/15)

KFF Health News:
Medics At UCLA Protest Say Police Weapons Drew Blood And Cracked Bones

Inside the protesters’ encampment at UCLA, beneath the glow of hanging flashlights and a deafening backdrop of exploding flash-bangs, OB-GYN resident Elaine Chan suddenly felt like a battlefield medic Police were pushing into the camp after an hours-long standoff. Chan, 31, a medical tent volunteer, said protesters limped in with severe puncture wounds, but there was little hope of getting them to a hospital through the chaos outside. (Castle Work and Kelman, 5/16)

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