November 24, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 207—Long COVID in women, and empowering Indiana’s nurses of color

New research from Indiana University physiologists found that women with prolonged effects of COVID-19 experience abnormal heart rate responses to physical activity. The study, led by IU School of Public Health-Bloomington’s Stephen J. Carter and Marissa N. Baranauskas, found abnormal heart rate responses were more apparent and accompanied by worse physical functioning during a 6-minute walk test in women experiencing certain symptoms during recovery. The researchers believe that these abnormal responses could cause women to avoid the levels of physical exertion necessary to return to pre-COVID independence and mobility. Though men are generally considered at higher risk of complications and death from COVID-19, the researchers say women outnumber men 3 to 1 when it comes to seeking treatment for long COVID. Given the prevalence of age-related physical disability in women compared to men, Carter says these findings show that a targeted rehabilitation program might be especially useful to women and other groups affected by COVID-19 symptoms, which can help promote recovery and minimize susceptibility for deteriorating physical conditions. Because the study suggests there may be lingering physical impairment several months into recovery, even from mild-to-moderate illness in women, the researchers say attention to physical rehabilitation following a COVID-19 diagnosis may be imperative to ensure certain individuals do not fall victim to a maladaptive cycle of physical inactivity and waning health.

In other news, just 10 percent of Indiana’s registered nurses are people of color, and the number of nurses of color involved in health policy and advocacy roles is even less. To address the significant impact a lack of representation has on health outcomes in the state, Sharron Crowder, a clinical associate professor at the IU School of Nursing, designed a program to engage nurses of color at various stages of their careers and prepare them for future positions in health policy and advocacy. There is a gap in the number of nurses who are contributing their expertise, leadership skills and advocacy on behalf of patients, families, and the big picture of improving health outcomes in Indiana, Crowder says. Crowder launched the “Empowering Indiana’s Nurses of Color for Health Policy Leadership” pilot program in January 2021 with a cohort of 10 nurses from communities throughout Indiana who are committed to engaging with patients of all ages to enhance and improve health care. The program addressed a variety of topics, from learning about the legislative process and how to engage with legislators to best practices for serving as advocates to advance health outcomes of residents in their communities. Mentorship also plays a key role in the program, helping cohort members build confidence in incorporating health policy and advocacy into their professional roles. Nurses are vital on the frontline, Crowder says, and by bringing their voices, expertise and leadership to the table, it will help improve health outcomes in Indiana and beyond.