Roundup: 1 in 4 Children Lack Sufficient Healthcare, Report Says; US. Dementia Rates Decline by 24%s

More than a quarter of American children are not getting proper healthcare because of both financial and non-financial barriers, according to a report from the nonprofit Children’s Health Fund (CHF).

At minimum, 20.3 million children (over 1 in 4) face barriers, the CHF says.

“The fact that 20.3 million children lack access to care that meets modern pediatric standards and expectations should be a call for immediate and focused attention to (a) identify the reasons for persistently poor levels of access to care and (b) develop strategies that can close the access gaps that have defied existing policies and programs,” the report states.

Financial barriers include the costs of insurance plans with high co-pays, high deductibles, and unaffordable prescription drug prices. CHF calculates that there are more than 13.1 million children whose families report either having problems paying medical bills or being unable to pay medical bills. Provider-based barriers also contribute to the financial burden when clinics or providers won’t accept certain forms of insurance or create environments that promote insurance stigma.

Non-financial barriers often encompass either geographic or informational obstacles. Geographic barriers include issues of transportation, such as a lack of a car or poor public transit options. There is also the issue of federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) where the number of health professionals in a given geographical area is insufficient for that population’s healthcare needs.

The CHF outlines the following recommendations (details are provided here):

  • Reduce or eliminate co-payments for lower-income families.
  • Increase public insurance reimbursements.
  • Send more health providers to poor communities.
  • Create more Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics.
  • Increase federal resources to help health clinics provide transportation services

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Rate of Dementia Declining Even as Over-65 Population Growing

Even as the number of adults over age 65 is increasing at a rapid rate, the prevalence of dementia is declining, according to a new study. And improved hearth health is a factor.

Dementia rates in Americans over age 65 dropped from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012, a decrease of 24 percent, according to a study of more than 21,000 people nationwide published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The decline in dementia rates means that about one million fewer Americans suffered from the the condition, which generally refers to loss of memory or other mental abilities that can disrupt daily living. Alzheimer’s disease, which still does not have a cure, is the most common type of dementia.

The study began in 1992 and included detailed interviews with people over age 50, collecting data every two years about their health, income and other personal information.

The study’s authors concede that “the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the decline is still uncertain.” But researchers conclude, nonetheless, that doctors are doing a better job of controlling their patients’ heart-health risk factors, including blood pressure and diabetes. High blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to a higher risk of strokes, which cane increase the risk of dementia as a result of dying brain cells.

Researchers found that the elderly population is becoming better educated about improving heart and brain health through screenings and lifestyle modifcations. Other studies have found a link between higher educational levels and lower risk of dementia.

The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to almost double by 2050, reaching 84 million, according to the U.S. Census.

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