Redlining linked to lower cancer screening rates

People who live in historically redlined areas have lower screening rates for common deadly cancers, new research finds.

Although redlining was banned in the United States in 1968, the impacts of the policy live on, according to the study, published June 15 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Redlining kept Black Americans and other people of color from receiving housing loans and insurance, as their neighborhoods were labeled “high-risk” by financial institutions. 

The new research found redlined neighborhoods have 24% lower odds of reaching national targets for breast cancer screening, 64% lower odds for colorectal cancer screening and 79% lower odds for cervical cancer screening when compared with areas that had not experienced redlining. Much of the relationship between redlining and cancer screening can be attributed to poverty, low education and lack of English proficiency, the Ohio State University researchers found. 

Of nearly 12,000 census tracts examined by researchers, about a third had previously experienced redlining, with the greatest number of such tracts in the New York City and Los Angeles metro areas.

Healthy People, a national initiative that sets health targets for the U.S. to reach across a decade, calls for about 80% of Americans to meet screening targets for breast cancer by 2030, 68% for colorectal cancer and 79% for cervical cancer. The goals were updated this year following changes to federal screening recommendations.

Mental health poorer for farmworkers, their children

Agricultural workers and their children are suffering higher rates of mental stress than the general U.S. population, a new study in Frontiers in Public Health finds.

Using 2021 data on farmworkers and their teenage children from five Midwestern states, researchers found that 60% of adults and adolescents had indicators for at least mild depression. About 55% of adults and 45% of adolescents met criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, they found.

Conversely, about 82% of respondents rated their own mental health as excellent or good, which researchers said may mean respondents have become used to living with depression, seeing it as a norm.

A strong link was found between depression in farmworker parents and depression in their teen children. Debt and depression also went hand-in-hand for adult farmworkers, according to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers, who are three years into a five-year study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

A May Gallup survey found that about 18% of U.S. adults had or were being treated for depression, the highest rate recorded by the polling company. About 3% of Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety and often occurs along with depression.

U.S. woefully behind on worker protections, rights

The U.S. is far behind most other high-income nations when it comes to worker protections, rights and wages, according to a new Oxfam America report.

Released June 14, the report compares U.S. labor laws with 38 economically similar nations, exploring wage policies, worker protections and rights to organize. The U.S. failed to break the top 30 in any of the three categories, which were measured as of September 2022.

On wage policies, which include minimum wages and unemployment benefits, Belgium, France and the Netherlands ranked at the top, while the U.S. ranked 36th. Among the reasons cited for the poor ranking is that the federal minimum wage has not changed for 14 years in the U.S., disproportionately harming women, people of color and single parents, the report said.

For worker protections, which include equal pay, paternal leave and sexual harassment policies, Germany, Finland and Norway took the lead, while the U.S. was last. The nation’s lack of mandated paid family or sick leave and unaffordable health care contributed to its poor showing.

The U.S. also ranked poorly on rights to organize, which include collective bargaining and the right to strike. Slovenia, Sweden and France topped the list, while the U.S. ranked 32nd. The report noted that the rate of unionized U.S. workers dropped to a historic low of 10% in 2022. In comparison, about 91% of workers in Iceland and 67% of workers in Denmark were unionized. Benefits of unionization include better wages, health care benefits and protections against unfair dismissal, the report said.

Black veterans lag on lung cancer screenings

Black veterans are less likely to be screened for lung cancer than their peers, a study in JAMA Network Open finds.

Using data from the North Carolina Veterans Affairs system, researchers found only about 31% of Black veterans completed lung cancer screening after being referred by their health providers, compared to 41% of white veterans. 

Black veterans who were 60 and older were less likely to complete screening than younger Black men who had served in the military. Unmarried Black veterans, smokers and those who had never served in combat were also less likely to finish the screening process. 

While 60% of all veterans failed to connect with a VA lung cancer screening program after a referral and follow-up contact, Black veterans had 34% lower odds of completing screening, the study found. As most patients who connected with a screening nurse both agreed to and completed lung cancer screening, outreach is a critical step in the process, the researchers said. 

Black men have the highest rate of lung cancer deaths among U.S. racial and ethnic groups and are less likely to be diagnosed early. Previous research has documented lower lung screening rates for Black men in the general U.S. population.

Little change in mental health treatment rates for kids

The growing rate of mental health problems among U.S. youth in recent years has been characterized as a national crisis. But treatment rates are showing little change, new data show.

A June 13 data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics found that in 2021, about 15% of children ages 5-17 had received mental health treatment in the past 12 months, including 8% who had taken medication for a mental health issue and 12% who received counseling or therapy.

The rates are similar to those measured in 2019, when about 14% of children ages 5-17 had received mental health treatment in the past year, a previous NCHS issue brief found. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought additional stressors, rates of youth suicide and mental health issues have been on the rise for more than a decade. The American Academy of Pediatrics and partners declared children’s mental health a national emergency in October 2021 and the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory on youth mental health two months later, calling for both prevention and integrated treatment.

The new NCHS data brief found that Asian children were least likely to receive mental health treatment. About 18% of white children received mental health care in 2021, compared to 13% of Black children, 10% of Hispanic children and 4% of Asian children.

Common mental health conditions in youth include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression.