In The News

Getting Help for Your Mental Health

Taking good care of your mental health is an important health priority, especially during stressful times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We have resources on our website that may help, including our fact sheets on stressdepression, and anxiety. You can also find helpful brochures and fact sheets on the National Institute of Mental Health website

If you (or someone you know or care about) are in immediate distress you can call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which is now active across the United States. 988 is a new, shorter phone number that will make it easier for people to get mental health crisis services. The old number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), still works, and it will continue to function indefinitely.  

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The Latest on Monkeypox

By the National Institute for Health Care Management

The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency as the number of confirmed cases has increased to over 30,000 across 88 countries with more than 8,900 cases in the U.S. (as of August 8th, 2022). On August 4th, President Biden declared monkeypox a national public health emergency. 

  • Vaccines: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that nearly 786,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will be made available for distribution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 1.5 million people are eligible for the vaccine.
  • Not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI): While monkeypox cases have predominately been found among men who have sex with men, it is neither an STI nor does it only impact specific communitiesTransmission can occur through skin-to-skin contact, touching contaminated objects, respiratory secretions, and during pregnancy. Experts have warned that stigmatizing messaging reinforces stereotypes and can undermine response efforts, as was the case during the HIV/AIDS epidemic
  • Impact on Health Clinics: Sexual health clinics, which have already been under pressure from years of underfunding and COVID-19, are now on the frontline of the growing monkeypox outbreak. 
  • Outlook: Many have compared the response to monkeypox in the U.S. to that of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite recent expansions in testing capacity, areas are still facing shortagesdelays in getting results, and a lack of reliable ways to test.

Resources:

 

Q&A on the Overdose Crisis

By the National Institute for Health Care Management

The CDC estimates that more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year - a record high. Learn more about the overdose crisis:

Q: How are racial disparities widening in overdose deaths?
A: According to a CDC report, overdose deaths are increasing fast among Black and Indigenous people. Black people ages 15 to 24 had an 86% increase in death rates compared to a 34% increase among White people of the same age group. The disproportionate increase among Black and Indigenous people may be due to health inequities, like unequal access to treatment.

Q: What is the role of fentanyl in the overdose crisis?
A: 
Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl are on the rise, which is often mixed with other illicit drugs without the user’s knowledge. Fentanyl-related deaths in the U.S. occur more often than gun and auto-related deaths combined. The Drug Enforcement Agency warns of a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass-overdose events. 

Q: How does harm reduction reduce overdose deaths?
A:
 The Biden administration’s strategy to address the overdose crisis is the first to incorporate harm reduction strategies, which include access to naloxone (the antidote to opioid overdoses), sterile needles, drug test strips, and supervised injection sites. 

Q: Are people with addiction able to receive treatment?
A:
 A recent study found that 87% of people with opioid use disorder (OUD) do not receive evidence-based treatment. Medications for OUD can reduce opioid overdoses by 50%.

Q: What about people with chronic pain?
A:
 The 2016 CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for pain have been credited with leading to harmful consequences for patients with chronic pain. The 2022 proposed guidelines remove the upper limits for prescription opioids, emphasize a patient-centric approach, and expand on alternative treatments.

Resources & Initiatives:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders is 1-800-662-HELP.

 

Keeping COVID at Bay

National Institute for Health Care Management

People who previously had COVID-19 are becoming reinfected from new omicron subvariants. The pace of COVID-19 deaths has plateaued since May, with 12,500 Americans dying of COVID-19 in July. The Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid keeps high-risk COVID-19 patients out of the hospital. 

Resources & Initiatives:

 

Ultrasound Imaging Gets Small and Wearable

National Institutes of Health | By Vicki Contie

Ultrasound is a noninvasive technique that lets clinicians peer inside the body to monitor health or diagnose disease. Imaging sessions are generally brief because ultrasound often requires the expertise of trained technicians working in medical settings.

Several research groups have been seeking more versatile approaches that would allow longer-term ultrasound monitoring in a variety of settings via wearable devices. To date, most of these efforts have provided relatively low-resolution images or are unable to visualize deep tissues or organs.

Now, an NIH-funded research team led by Dr. Xuanhe Zhao at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new type of wearable ultrasound patch that overcomes many of the limitations of earlier approaches. This multi-layered device is about the size of a thick postage stamp, and it adheres to skin in both wet and dry environments. The device was described in Science on July 29, 2022.

Ultrasound works by first placing a probe, or transducer, on the body. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves that enter the body and bounce off internal tissues, creating echoes that are captured and transmitted to instruments that translate the data into pictures or videos. A soft gel applied between the skin and probe helps to enhance soundwave transmission.

The patch created by Zhao’s team used several advanced techniques to combine all of these ultrasound components in a miniature package. A thin, rigid array of ultrasound probes sits atop a tough but flexible hydrogel layer. An elastomer membrane protects the hydrogel from drying out, and a bioadhesive binds the probe strongly to skin. The combination of a rigid probe array and flexible hydrogel-elastomer layers enables more stable and higher-resolution imaging than other wearable ultrasound devices that are thin and stretchy.

The researchers tested the patch on 15 human volunteers. They showed that the device could be comfortably worn for at least 48 hours. Depending on placement, the patch could provide continuous imaging of blood vessels, heart, muscle, diaphragm, stomach, or lung. The heart or lungs could be stably and continuously imaged even while volunteers were jogging or cycling.

Despite the patch’s potential for on-the-fly mobile imaging, the device currently must be hooked to computer systems for intensive data processing. But Zhao and his team foresee future possibilities:

“We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand,” Zhao says. “We believe this represents a breakthrough in wearable devices and medical imaging.”

 
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