It is the time of year when parents and students of all ages begin preparing to go back to school.  They will be exposed to new experiences and ideas, but also higher stress and risk of exposure to viruses — including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and the proliferating variants. 

The ongoing pandemic has added challenges to every facet of life, including navigating classrooms. Returning to school has taken on new meaning and a new set of worries for students, parents, caregivers, and teachers. The decision on what classes and learning looks like is usually made on the local level by school boards and government officials. Overall, schools choose from one of three models:

  • Distance learning. All instruction is done remotely using technology and other tools.
  • In-person schooling. Similar to traditional schooling with enhanced health and safety precautions and procedures, but risks infection for students/teachers/their families.
  • Hybrid schooling. This model includes elements of both distance and in-person schooling.

Schools may adopt one or more models over the course of the school year and still-evolving pandemic. Being prepared for a variety of learning environments can empower you and/or your child/student and reduce any additional anxiety. In each case, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of COVID-19, help your student feel safe, and make informed decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Get vaccinated. All adults and children over 12 years old currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines should get fully immunized by the start of school year. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson’s.
  • Wear face masks. Everyone over 2 years old should wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth. This is a simple, proven tool to protect students and teachers indoors — even if they’ve been vaccinated.
  • Monitor health. Be aware of any symptoms you may have, stay home if you are sick, get tested, and notify the school if you are at risk of exposure/infection.

Regardless

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Minorities in America have unique mental health experiences. Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and other minority groups experience systemic barriers in daily life that are so unrelatable for white Americans that many refuse to believe they exist. Recognizing the disparities in access and experience of mental health can raise awareness and reduce stigma for vulnerable people.

By nearly any measure, Black people suffer disproportionately in America. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. Black children are more than three times more likely to die after surgery than white children. BIPOC face countless challenges to good health, among them food, transportation, and income. Healthcare services are often more expensive, with over 30% of medical expenses faced by BIPOC being associated with health inequities. The stress of living life inescapably affected by racism has very real effects on a person’s physical and mental health

Black people are

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There has been a lot in the news lately about aducanumab (Aduhelm), a new monoclonal antibody treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease and is the most common cause of dementia. It causes destructive, progressive, and irreversible changes in the brain. A common feature is the accumulation of a protein called amyloid-β in the form of plaques and tau tangles. Both are thought to cause cell death, but they have not yet been shown to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Aducanumab (Aduhelm), a drug that reduces amyloid-β plaques, was approved by the FDA on June 7, 2021 for treatment of all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The approval was quite controversial for several reasons.

  • Many experts are concerned that accelerated approval of aducanumab without convincing evidence is premature, especially since it was only tested on those with early Alzheimer’s disease but was approved for all stages. In fact, there is no evidence at all that aducanumab is effective in patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The government is now looking at the issue since Alzheimer’s disease primarily occurs in seniors and Medicare will be picking up most of the tab for a medication that may have little benefit.
  • The Boston Globe reported unofficial meetings between the manufacturer and an FDA director that may have influenced the decision. 

The reason for the controversy can be confusing, so I will try and explain the different sides of the issue to help you understand what the fuss is about. There are basically three perspectives to consider when breaking down this issue.

  1. Those who believe there was not enough good evidence that aducanumab improves patients with Alzheimer’s disease to approve the drug, especially for use in those with advanced disease.
  2. Those who feel that the fact that there are no other available treatments justifies the use of aducanumab without convincing evidence and despite the known side-effects.
  3. Those who are concerned that the healthcare system cannot afford the $58,000 yearly cost of medication, along with the cost of brain-imaging tests, infusions, and provider visits, especially if the benefits are only subtle.

The Evidence

Basing medical treatments on solid evidence is of major importance to healthcare providers. There are too many examples of unhelpful

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Photo by Dakota Roos

Summer has arrived in the United States. Over the following months, it will be important to protect ourselves from the health risks posed by the sun and heat. Regardless of skin color, exposure to the sun carries many dangers to one’s skin — from wrinkles often associated with aging to freckles, sunburns, benign tumors, or cancerous skin lesions. Exposure to heat can also have many negative impacts on one’s health ranging from a rash, exhaustion, fainting, or even death. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, being in crowded areas with unvaccinated people — even outside — without appropriate protection measures can pose health risks to those around them.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages everyone — especially those with pale skin; blond, red, or light brown hair; or who has a personal or family history of skin cancer — to practice care while in the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes, and

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June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. A vital part of awareness is knowing that migraines are much more than just a bad headache. Migraine is a neurological disease with debilitating symptoms that affects over 39 million people in the United States. Most people who experience migraines get them once or twice a month, but more than 4 million are affected by daily chronic migraine with at least 15 days of debilitating symptoms every month.

Everyone has headaches, but not everyone experiences migraines. Migraine is not a measurement of headache pain. Many people think there’s a scale: mild pain, moderate pain, severe pain, migraine. This is a misconception. A migraine may be any level of pain, from none to severe. Migraine involves nerve pathways, brain chemicals, and often runs in families but also has environmental factors. There is no single migraine pattern. Some people find certain foods bring on a migraine, while others may find bright or flashing lights start the process leading to a full-blown migraine. 

There are

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