By: Laura Summers
Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with a group of health care experts and ask them what they thought the key issues the state and Utah’s health care systems will be focusing on in 2021, besides COVID-19. I was thinking about health care issues that maybe got swept to the side in 2020 but would re-emerge as we “hopefully” return to some normalcy in 2021.
Interestingly, the answer had less to do with anything “besides” COVID-19 and everything to do with COVID-19. The recurring theme during this conversation was that 2021 would be a time for the state and Utah’s health care systems to proactively address both the direct and indirect health care issues that emerged from the pandemic. I briefly outline five examples below; however, there are numerous other issues related to health care, health care access, and health care affordability that could be included in this list.
First is a focus on encouraging individuals to access preventive and primary care―care that many people may have delayed in 2020 (e.g., dental care, immunizations, cancer screenings, etc.). Unfortunately, this pent-up need for care may have resulted in some missed early diagnoses, leading to health conditions that are harder to treat, manage, or sadly lead to premature death.
Second is understanding and treating individuals experiencing ongoing complications from COVID-19. The long-term health effects of COVID-19 are still largely unknown, but there is concern that some individuals could have lasting health needs.
Third, the state and Utah’s health care systems must attend to the mental and behavioral health needs among Utah’s adults and children that emerged or were exacerbated during COVID-19. For example, some data suggest that the share of U.S. adults expe