Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Cameron Hood, Newsletter EditorJonathan Lambert
Public Health Reporter
Welcome to Grid Health, bringing you stories on the intersections of health and politics, technology, climate change, misinformation and more. In this issue:  
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Last month, I visited the Children’s National Hospital long covid clinic here in D.C. I went there to talk directly with families living with what no kid should have to endure, and witness how an integrative, interdisciplinary clinic – the current gold standard of treatment – tries to help. 

The cases are complex, varied and heartbreaking. Once-active children now struggle to walk more than 50 feet. Some are so tired they sleep for 20 hours a day. Others have had to withdraw from school because virus-induced brain fog clouds their ability to solve simple math problems. The
one thing they have in common is a covid infection. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were
roughly 26 million cases of covid among people under 18 during the first 20 months of the pandemic. But just how many kids are dealing with long covid is hard to pin down. The condition seems to be less common in children than in adults; one international study put the risk at nearly 6 percent. But the sheer number of initial infections in kids means that many likely face lingering symptoms — yet few areas have facilities equipped to offer adequate care. That leaves many families, especially those with lower incomes or outside of major metro areas, to figure it all out themselves. 

“It’s hard for kids. Their peers often don’t understand because they look normal,” said Alexandra Yonts, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s National Hospital, which sees three new patients a week and is booked through June 2023. “The parents vocalize a lot of frustration being passed around from doctor to doctor, since there’s still a lot of community physicians that don’t believe that long covid exists in kids or just don’t know what to do about it.” 

Children’s National and the just over a dozen
pediatric long covid clinics like it scattered across the country are different. They’re staffed by clinicians keeping up with the latest research who approach each case from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on tools from physical medicine and rehabilitation, cardiology, pulmonology, psychology and more to address each symptom. 

Parents of kids at these clinics expressed relief at having found a place that’s offering them real hope. The road to recovery can be long and bumpy, but clinicians told me that most kids do improve, at least somewhat. Dedicated clinics offer kids their best chance at navigating that road smoothly, but there are way too few of them to help all the kids struggling with this terrible illness.

Read my full report


💠 Ukraine's DNA detectives: Ukrainian forensic scientists are investigating Russian war crimes using a mobile DNA lab van, a bid to better preserve evidence of atrocities committed on civilians this year in eastern Ukraine, Science Reporter Dan Vergano writes, with on-the-ground reporting from Freelance Reporter Kseniia Lisnycha in Ukraine. It’s the first time mobile-DNA technology has been used to probe war crimes. Read more.

The future of 'effective altruism’: Former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, whose crypto exchange FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy this week, has been a major figure and funder in “effective altruism.” The philanthropy movement seeks to rigorously hold charitable donations to external measures of effectiveness and impact. Domestic Economics Reporter Matthew Zeitlin looks at how FTX’s failure could affect the movement’s future, with an assist from Technology Reporter Benjamin Powers. See their report.

💠 Medicare in the spotlight: Despite a campaign season about crime and inflation, a surefire standoff next year will be over the debt ceiling, an attempt to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending, Editor-at-Large Matthew Yglesias writes. Republicans, who are poised to take control of the House, say they will tell President Joe Biden to accept reductions or they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling. The problem with not raising the debt ceiling is doing so would make it illegal for the federal government to pay bills it’s legally obliged to pay — so it’s a true game of chicken. Read what’s next.


As a group, veterans have significantly higher rates of some mental illnesses than nonveterans, a reflection of the enduring physical and psychological traumas of war – a problem I explored in a feature last week with Data Reporter Anna Deen and Senior Editor Suzette Lohmeyer.  

The suicide rate for veterans is 57.3 percent higher than it is for nonveterans, adjusting for age and sex, according to a Congressional Research Service
analysis of Veteran Affairs data. Male veterans were at the highest risk for suicide, with 34.5 suicides per 100,000 people in 2019, compared with 17.1 for female veterans, the VA found. Age was also a factor: Younger veterans, who include veterans who’ve more recently transitioned to civilian life, generally have higher rates of suicide than other age groups. 

The good news: Suicide rates among veterans, as well as the general population,
declined in the first year of the pandemic.  


👋 Thanks for reading. Until next week, take care. –Jon 

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Cameron Hood and Lillian Barkley also contributed to this edition of Grid Health.
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