Tuesdays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

The brainchild of University of Tennessee professor Dr. Carole Myers, HealthConnections brings the often-abstract world of health care, coverage and policy to a human level. What is access? How do marketplaces work? What's the future of health insurance? In this biweekly series, Dr. Myers and WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth sort through these issues and more, all to give you a toolbox for understanding what you hear on the news, or to separate fact from fiction in the health care debate.

The pandemic, political chaos, disruptions to old norms of social contact, economic worries, concerns about the present and future -- the events of 2020 are enough to get anyone down. Unsurprisingly, more Americans have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially younger adults, people of color and people in the health care field.

In the dark days of the Second World War, the letter V meant victory. Today, the letter V stands for something just as hoped-for: a vaccine against COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies around the world are scrambling to invent a vaccine that will protect us from the pernicious effects of the novel coronavirus. But any vaccine must also be safe for humans.

A word of caution: This topic may upset some listeners.

The suicide rate among the general population has increased 30% since 2000. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10-34 years old.

Suicide is an even more challenging concern in the world of health and medicine.  Health care professionals, including physicians, veterinarians, and nurses have considerably higher rates of suicide than the general population.  Sadly, we even sometimes see suicide referred to as an occupational hazard for health care professionals.

For years, going to your health care provider meant going to the provider – being physically present in the waiting room when you name was called. Advocates for telehealth say you don’t always need to do that. Meeting your provider remotely, by video or phone, could expand access to health care services.

Adopting telehealth has been relatively slow, in part because of restrictive state and federal regulations, technology problems, including broadband access, and whether or not patients feel comfortable interacting with their providers remotely.

Many of us have COVID anxiety to one degree or another. But we can’t forget that children are also aware things are different and unsettling now. As school starts back, parents and kids probably have lots of questions about what happens next, and how they will stay safe.

In this edition of HealthConnections, the University of Tennessee's Dr. Allyson Neal tells us how to talk to kids about COVID worries and how you can help them deal with uncertainty. HealthConnections creator Dr. Carole Myers is your host.

This edition of HealthConnnections is different that our usual fare. We’re going to be talking about a polarizing but important topic: the role of racism in American healthcare.

We know this is a galvanizing topic, because people generally don’t like the idea of their actions being considered racist. But Dr. Carole Myers, of the University of Tennessee College of Nursing, says it is time to have this difficult conversation and make positive changes in healthcare.

Some Tennesseans are skeptical about COVID-19. They equate safer-at-home orders with tyranny. They don't like the idea of having to wear masks. They want stores to open and stay open. They are a mix of residents, business owners and elected officials. And they get a lot of attention on the news and in social media.

But are they representative of Tennesseans in general? Not according to a serial survey conducted by a team of University of Tennessee researchers.

Close to half a million Tennessee children are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. For many of those students, the food they eat at school might be the most substantive meal they get all day. When schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that reliable daily connection to nutrition was severed. School systems scrambled to provide workarounds, usually in the form of food pickup sites.

Tennessee has asked the federal government for permission to make significant changes to the way it funds and operates the state's modified Medicaid program, TennCare. Those changes would impose work or community service requirements for TennCare eligibility, and move TennCare's federal funding to a block grant model.

Stress is natural, and it is inevitable. But these days, there may be many more stressors pressing down on each of us, from the dismal news cycle to job losses and health concerns. Left untreated, that stress can be detrimental to mental and physical health. It can even shave years off your life.