CONN. HEALTH I-TEAM

JUNE 2021 - AUGUST 2021

“As you have learned in school and from us, this past week will never be forgotten by the people of the United States. Your mother and I thank you, Alison, for helping us get through this time. Thankfully no one in our immediate family or friends were hurt by the terrorist attack, however we were all touched. It started as a normal day but around 8:50 on Tuesday morning, America ended as I knew it.”

— From the journal of John Cross, Sept. 16, 2001

My family never talked about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks much. Aside from annual moments of silence and one detailed lesson in sixth grade, I don’t remember learning about 9/11 in school. I can’t describe the first time my parents told me about the attacks. For me, 9/11 was an ever-present fact — a part of me always knew that planes went down, buildings collapsed, and people died, but I understood it in a detached way, like someone watching a movie.

I was 10 months old when the Twin Towers fell. I am too young to remember the terrorist attack that changed our nation forever and too young to remember what America was like before. All I know is a post-9/11 world. I never knew a different New York City skyline or what it was like to get on a plane before airport security, and I don’t know a country at peace.

Every year, for 20 years, there are the same words, plastered on posters, displayed on TV ads and shared on social media: Never forget. But how am I supposed to never forget when I am too young to even remember? ... READ MORE

(Alison Cross)

John Cross’s Sept. 16, 2001, journal entry.

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(Alison Cross)

The Community Health Center Inc. set up shop inside the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Waterbury on a Friday in mid-July. Armed with 24 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the team of six staff and volunteers sat ready for patients from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Not one person showed up.

The turnout was not surprising, according to the vaccination site leader and nurses at the mobile clinic. Last month, new vaccinations across Connecticut fell to the lowest numbers since January, a predictable outcome when nearly 65% of the total state population has received at least one vaccine dose. But in Waterbury, only 46% of residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Waterbury is not alone. The populations of fully vaccinated residents in Hartford, New Britain, Bridgeport, and New Haven are between 41% and 51%. These five cities share some similarities: a population that is at least 60% minority, a median household income below $47,000 a year, and a rank within the top 10 cities and towns with the highest cases and deaths from COVID-19, according to data from the state Department of Public Health and the U.S. Census Bureau.

While differences in political ideologies have framed much of the vaccine conversation, the data shows that in Connecticut, the populations with the lowest vaccination rates are racial and ethnic minorities... READ MORE

Time is ticking to take advantage of reduced or no-cost health insurance plans through the American Rescue Plan Act Special Enrollment Period, which ends Aug. 15.

Residents can access discounted insurance coverage by enrolling through Access Health CT, Connecticut’s official health insurance marketplace.

“The American Rescue Plan Act has made health insurance coverage significantly more affordable and this special enrollment period provides access to this help for many more people,” said James Michel, chief executive officer at Access Health CT. “We ask that if you or someone you know is uninsured or unemployed, please enroll by Aug. 15..." READ MORE

Rory M. sobbed in her kitchen.

It was just after 7:30 on a frosty winter night, and her dad had baked a pizza for the family. She wanted dinner, but no matter how much she tried to bring herself to eat a slice, she could not do it. The panic was too much.

It was December of 2020, and the eating disorder that crept into Rory’s life during the COVID-19 lockdown had taken total control. It consumed her thoughts, robbed her strength, and threatened her health—Rory knew she needed help.

Following the start of the pandemic, eating disorder support group membership increased, waitlists for recovery treatment grew, and hospitalizations of patients with eating disorders nearly doubled in the Hartford HealthCare network. Experts say those trends are no coincidence; among other factors, the increased downtime, isolation and anxiety experienced during the pandemic lockdowns created the perfect conditions for eating disorders to form and flourish... READ MORE

(Alison Cross)

Each day at the Connecticut Poison Control Center (CPCC) brings calls about someone suffering the adverse effects of cannabis poisoning. Most often, those calls involve children, said Dr. Suzanne Doyon, medical director of the CPCC.

“We get calls about this daily. Absolutely,” Doyon said. “There was even a day two weeks ago, where we had five children in different hospitals in the state of Connecticut, all with edible marijuana exposures. Five at the same time—that was a record for us.”

Now that Connecticut has made the possession of recreational cannabis legal as of July 1, Doyon fears that the number of calls to CPCC for cannabis exposures will only increase: “The numbers are going to go up.” Her anxieties are not unfounded; data from poison control centers across the country substantiate Doyon’s predictions... READ MORE

(Alison Cross)

The state’s failure to pass a ban on flavored tobacco products may have put it in a better strategic position to prevent and combat teen tobacco use.

Legislators could not agree on the ban in June, but a new—albeit small—study by Abigail Friedman, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, found that after San Francisco banned flavored tobacco products in 2018, including flavored e-cigarettes, cigarette smoking increased among the city’s high school students.

In comparatively similar school districts across the country with no flavor ban, cigarette smoking continued to decline, according to Friedman’s study, published in May in JAMA Pediatrics.

“This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking,” Friedman wrote.

The results of the Yale study may be a case of correlation rather than causation. Data show that between 2017 and 2019, other high-risk youth behaviors such as alcohol, cannabis and cocaine use that trended downward for four or more years also increased. Friedman cautioned that the study has limited generalizability outside of San Francisco and said that future investigations should evaluate whether these upward and downward trends continue... READ MORE

(Alison Cross)

Isolated from friends and the LGBTQ community, University of Connecticut senior Megan Graham at times found herself questioning her queer identity during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I felt a bit more insecure about my identity being away from my friends who are within the community,” Graham said. “I didn’t have the same outlet as I did to be myself without judgment. I questioned myself more and wished I had more people to talk to about it.”

At UConn, Graham is the president of the Queer Collective, an LGBTQ discussion-based support organization that is run through the Rainbow Center, the heart of UConn’s LGBTQ community. Graham said that some of her self-doubts stemmed from losing these LGBTQ affirming spaces as the pandemic shut down campus and moved classes online.

Like Graham, many young adults in the LGBTQ community lost their outlets and safe spaces during the pandemic. A new survey by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works to prevent LGBTQ suicide, found that in 2020, a majority of LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 suffered from poor mental health in homes that did not support their sexual orientation or gender identity... READ MORE

As Connecticut pools and shoreline beaches open up and hot summer days start to set in, you may be reaching for a bottle of SPF to protect against UVA and UVB rays, but before you slather on the lotion, do you really know what’s inside that bottle?

According to a new study, a cancer-causing chemical may be lurking in your go-to brand of sunblock.

Valisure, a New Haven pharmaceutical testing lab, found concentrations of benzene, designated a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 27% of the nearly 300 sunscreen and after-sun products tested... READ MORE

(Alison Cross)