KU News: Clinic closures disrupt preventative health care for low-income women, study finds

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Clinic closures disrupt preventative health care for low-income women,          study finds

LAWRENCE — Conservative legislation has resulted in funding cuts and clinic closures for abortion providers in many states. But such policies have damaging consequences on women who rely on family planning clinics for other health services, according to new research from the University of Kansas. The study, titled “The Impact of Driving Time to Family Planning Facilities on Preventive Service Use in Ohio,” details how adding miles between patients and their care facilities can lead to decreases in breast examinations, mammograms and Pap testing. The article appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Grant focuses on identifying genetic pathways for language disorder

LAWRENCE — To study the genetics of specific language impairment, a University of Kansas researcher has been awarded $439,782 through the National Institute of Health for a three-year project focused on extended families in Pakistan. Consanguinity, or cousin marriages, are prevalent in Pakistan and increase the risk of inherited disorders, and the research is designed to identify the gene pathways involved in this poorly understood language disorder.

Visiting scholar will address need for more diversity in STEM fields

LAWRENCE — A Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar will examine how to improve diversity in science during an online lecture for the University of Kansas. Karen Fleming, an internationally prominent biophysicist and professor at Johns Hopkins University, will talk about equity in STEM fields at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, during this free public event.

Full stories below.

Contact: Jon Niccum, KU News Service, 785-864-7633, [email protected]
Clinic closures disrupt preventative health care for low-income women, study finds

LAWRENCE — Conservative legislation has resulted in funding cuts and clinic closures for abortion providers in many states. But such anti-abortion policies have damaging consequences on women who rely on family planning clinics for other health services, according to new research from the University of Kansas.

“Clinics are a crucial part of the universe of safety net providers of preventive care for low-income, reproductive-age women,” said David Slusky, De-Min and Chin-Sha Wu Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Kansas.

His new study, titled “The Impact of Driving Time to Family Planning Facilities on Preventive Service Use in Ohio,” details how adding miles between patients and their care facilities can lead to decreases in breast examinations, mammograms and Pap testing. The article appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Cost-related health care avoidance also increases the overall burden on taxpayers.

“Reductions in preventive care rates lead to diseases like cancer being caught at later stages when it is harder and more expensive to treat,” Slusky said. “Some of these increased costs are paid through public insurance and come from taxpayer funding. Additionally, the increased side effects from treatment and premature loss of life reduces individuals’ ability to work, which decreases the volume of taxpayer funds available for the rest of the safety net.”

Slusky said that spending should be of secondary concern compared to finding ways to improving value in health. The aforementioned tests are typically high-value, low-cost services for reproductive-age women.

“We should be recommending and encouraging uptake of these services however we can,” he said.

“The Impact of Driving Time” — co-written with Jacqueline Ellison, Kevin Griffith, Madalyn Thursby and Jacob Bor — gathers data from the 2010 to 2015 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The final sample included 4,722 low-income female respondents (household incomes below $50,000) ages 18-45 years.

The study found that each additional 10 minutes of driving time was associated with an 8.9% increase in the likelihood of avoided care owing to cost, a 10.4% decrease in the likelihood of mammogram receipt during the past 12 months and a 12.5% decrease in the likelihood of ever receiving a clinical breast examination.

This was the first study by Slusky in Ohio. (He’s examined similar questions in Texas and Wisconsin and found comparable results.) The Midwestern state has made several attempts to limit the distribution of federal and state funds to affiliates of abortion providers and, in 2013, successfully deprioritized public funds for private family planning facilities.

“More generally, Ohio has a hostile abortion policy landscape relative to other states,” Slusky said, citing the Guttmacher Institute, which quantifies such hostility based on the number and type of abortion restrictions in each state.

Exacerbating the problem is COVID-19. The pandemic has already led to a steady decrease in preventive care utilization during the last year. And those assuming that women’s health concerns could improve under the seemingly more amenable Biden administration may be disappointed.

“Most of these restrictions are enacted at the state level and not at the federal level,” Slusky said.

“The federal government branch that has the most impact on these policies is not the executive branch but the judicial branch, which now has many judges and justices appointed by former President Trump. So I don’t think a change in administration makes our results any less salient.”

While constraining the activity of clinics may indeed result in fewer abortions, it also leads to significant problems that disproportionately target low-income females, who already suffer substantial barriers to health care.

“Any policymaker attempting to reduce abortion rates has to either mitigate these unintended consequences or be willing to publicly own them,” Slusky said.

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Contact: Jen Humphrey, Life Span Institute, 785-864-6621, [email protected], @kulifespan

Grant focuses on identifying genetic pathways for language disorder

LAWRENCE — Language development in toddlers usually proceeds from gestures and garbled sounds into words and eventually full sentences. But for some children, language development can be delayed – even when there is no clear evidence of neurological, sensory-intellectual or emotional problems.

For these children, specific language impairment, or SLI, affects their ability to acquire a language. The estimated prevalence of SLI in children is 7% in the United States. It can persist into adulthood. Children with SLI are normally at the higher risk of lower academic achievement, difficulty in developing peer relationships, social anxiety in early childhood and reading impairments. Twin and family aggregation studies indicate that genetic factors are involved in SLI. However, the underlying genetic influences are not well-known in this disorder.

To study the genetics of this disorder, M. Hashim Raza, KU assistant professor in the Child Language Doctoral Program, has been awarded $439,782 through the National Institute of Health for a three-year project focused on extended families in Pakistan.

Consanguinity, or cousin marriages, are prevalent in Pakistan and increase the risk of inherited disorders. The custom, which helps retain wealth and family traditions, is relatively common in some Middle East and South Asian countries. In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, up to 70% of marriages are consanguineous. However, it can lead to higher chances to inherit identical copies of detrimental genes, which leads to increased risks of genetic disorders such as SLI.

According to Raza, genetic studies of large consanguineous families with SLI are important to identify the gene pathways involved in this poorly understood, genetically complex disorder. Studying such large families with well-defined phenotypes, or sets of characteristics, are needed to increase the likelihood of identifying genes affiliated with the disorder.

Some of the premises for this project are previous findings and research by Raza and colleagues on the family-based genetic nature of persistent stuttering. Genetic causes of stuttering were not precisely understood when Raza and researchers at the National Institutes of Health successfully mapped several genes and, for the first time, identified gene mutations associated with stuttering in 2010 and 2015 by studying extended families from Pakistan, West Africa, Brazil and the United States.

He said that the long-term goal of the project is to further understand how gene pathways are involved in the development of typical and atypical language.

“The genetic studies of unusual families with defined phenotypes help us to map genomic regions with high confidence, leads to identify the particular genes,” he said. “Once we are able to find the genes, we can target those genes in multiple populations to find the prevalence of the genetic variations associated with this disorder.”

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Visiting scholar will address need for more diversity in STEM fields

LAWRENCE — A Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar will examine how to improve diversity in science during a lecture at the University of Kansas.

Karen Fleming, an internationally prominent biophysicist, will talk about equity in STEM fields at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, over Zoom. The lecture is free and open to the public. It will be moderated by Phi Beta Kappa members Apolonia Arteaga and Aroog Khaliq, both KU students.

Fleming is a professor of biophysics at Johns Hopkins University who directs a discovery-oriented research laboratory at the intersection of physics and biology. Her work enables insight into the rules of life, mechanisms of disease, evolution and biological design.

The professor is an outspoken advocate for nurturing a more diverse, representative and inclusive STEM pipeline. She has won numerous awards for both her scientific and diversity/equity accomplishments, including the Thomas Thompson Award from the Biophysical Society and the Johns Hopkins Provosts prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity. She serves as an associate editor at the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Her lecture is part of a virtual university visit for the Kansas Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Other events include a screening of the documentary “Picture A Scientist” and small group discussions with KU faculty, staff and students.

“As a pre-medical student, I am familiar with the experiences of women and minorities in STEM, and while the field changes and grows constantly, the pitfalls associated with underrepresentation are hardly new to me,” Khaliq said. “I am grateful to the Phi Beta Kappa organizers for bringing this conversation to its students and encouraging us all to consider our place in academic cultures, as there is a lot of work to do if we want to prioritize equity beyond the level of mission statements.”

The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture at KU is sponsored by the University Honors Program, Department of Molecular Biosciences, Center for Computational Biology, the Multicultural Scholars Program, KU Natural History Museum and The Commons.

The 16 individuals participating in the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2020-2021 Visiting Scholar Program will make more than 100 visits to colleges and universities like KU with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. The program strives to contribute to the intellectual life of institutions by making possible an exchange of ideas between the visiting scholars and the resident faculty and students.

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