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Deb Gordon

Deborah D. Gordon has spent her career trying to level the playing field for healthcare consumers. She is co-founder of Umbra Health Advocacy, a marketplace for patient advocacy services, and co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, the premiere membership organization for independent advocates. She is the author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money," based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Deb previously spent more than two decades in healthcare leadership roles, including chief marketing officer for a Massachusetts health plan and CEO of a health technology company. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and a Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree. Her contributions have appeared in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, The Hill and Managed Care Magazine. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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July Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. HealthyWomen weighed in on the FDA review of the latest Covid-19 vaccine

This month, HealthyWomen Senior Policy Advisor Martha Nolan spoke at a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in support of expanding the number of recommended vaccines available for use in adults, including the recently FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax. This vaccine is made using traditional protein-based methods, similar to those used to create the flu vaccine. Nolan argued that healthcare providers need more options to reach people who remain hesitant to get vaccinated or who are immunocompromised and unable to take Covid-19 vaccines currently available. The panel voted unanimously to recommend the new vaccine’s approval, and the CDC quickly accepted ACIP’s recommendations.

2. HealthyWomen joined advocates in urging the FDA to make sure vulnerable people have access to Covid-19 prevention and treatment

On July 20, 2022, HealthyWomen sent a letter signed by 16 national patient advocacy groups to FDA Commissioner Caiff urging the FDA to make sure prevention and treatment are available for vulnerable people — especially 7 million people who are immunocompromised or part of marginalized populations that have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19. The letter commended the FDA on actions it has already taken to bring safe vaccines and treatments to the market. It also encouraged the FDA to continue taking steps to keep vulnerable people safe by being prepared to respond to new variants and guard against pandemic fatigue. The letter represented concerns of the signatories’ constituents that in the nation’s push to return to “normal,” many people with conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and autoimmune diseases feel unprotected.

3. The new 988 mental health hotline went live this month

On July 16, 2022, the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline launched its new 988 phone number. The mental health crisis hotline had already been operating but now it is reachable via an easy three-digit number. Like 911, 988 is available anytime from anywhere from anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or in need of help resulting from a mental health issue. The Biden administration spent more than $400 million to fund crisis centers and other mental health service providers to enable the 988 response.

4. Racial disparities in overdose deaths have worsened

A new CDC analysis released this month showed that deaths from drug overdoses increased by about 30% between 2019 and 2020. These increases were higher for Black people (44%) and people of American Indian or Alaskan Native descent (39%). Black men ages 65 and older were nearly seven times more likely to die of an overdose than non-Hispanic white men in that age bracket. The analysis also showed that Black Americans were less likely than other groups to have received treatment for substance use. Disparities in overdose deaths were highest in counties with greater income inequality.

5. Diabetes during pregnancy is rising

According to a new National Vital Statistics Report released this month, rates of gestational diabetes — diabetes that develops during pregnancy — rose 30% between 2016 and 2020. The rate of increase appears to be accelerating, as the rate of gestational diabetes jumped 13% in the one year from 2019 to 2020 compared with average increases of just 5% each year from 2016 to 2019. The rate was highest among non-Hispanic Asian women (nearly 15%) and lowest for non-Hispanic Black women (6.5%). The risk of gestational diabetes was linked to maternal age and body mass index, among other factors.

6. The United States House of Representatives passed a bill to ensure the right to use birth control

In July 2021, a bill to protect the right to use contraceptives passed the United States House of Representatives. The bill had nearly 150 co-sponsors. To become law, the bill will have to pass in the United States Senate, which may be unlikely.

7. Giving birth costs women an extra $19,000 in health costs

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released this month shows just how costly giving birth can be. The report reveals that women who give birth in the United States incur an average of nearly $19,000 more in health costs than women who don’t, including nearly $3,000 in incremental out-of-pocket costs. Costs were even higher (more than $26,000, including more than $3,200 out-of-pocket) for women who had cesarean sections.

8. Cancer is more common in women who get breast implants than previously understood

A new review of national cancer databases published in JAMA Oncology revealed that a rare cancer, breast anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL), is more common than previously thought. The new analysis shows that the lifetime risk of ALCL in women who received breast implants was 7.5 per 100 million compared to previous estimates of just 3 per 100,000 million. Though still rare, this analysis shows that women who get breast implants are at more than double the risk of developing ALCL in their lifetimes than was previously understood.

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