The Health Advocates

A podcast that breaks down major health news of the week to help you make sense of it all.

Portrait of host Steven Newmark
Portrait of host Zoe Rothblatt

“The Health Advocates” is hosted by Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at GHLF and Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at GHLF. Our goal is to help you understand what’s happening in the healthcare world to help you make informed decisions to live your best life.

“The Health Advocates” is part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation Podcast Network and hosted by Steven Newmark and Zoe Rothblatt.

S3, Ep 20- Don’t Let Them Gaslight Your Health

People living with chronic pain are often misunderstood. Their ongoing struggles cause those lacking compassion to gaslight them and minimize their symptoms. In this episode, we meet Catina Morrison, who is using her own experiences living with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and endometriosis to teach others how to stand up and self-advocate to overcome people, pain, and stigma.

“People who complain of chronic pain are often told that it’s in their head. “Oh, it can’t be that bad. It’s just a bad period. Aren’t period supposed to be painful?” No, they’re not,” says Catina Morrison, Corporate Nurse and Chronic Illness Coach.

S3, Ep 19- The Alphabet of COVID and Why It Matters

A series of letters and numbers have changed our lives: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Omicron, Delta, BA.4, BA.5. So no wonder we’re confused by the virus and all its variants. In this episode, our host Zoe Rothblatt leads our class in sorting through the confusion and, together with Steven Newmark, bottom line why we need to understand it all.

“How do you recognize your symptoms? I did a COVID test because I was so nervous. I’m like, “No; it’s allergies.” And it would really be helpful if I read up more so I could recognize those symptoms and not bring myself into a panic,” says Zoe, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Heathy Living Foundation.

S3, Ep 18- This Nerve-Wracking Time of COVID

Who doesn’t want to leave winter behind and enjoy life beyond COVID? But the truth is we’re living in a place in-between, eager to drop our guards and live life out in the open again but with the invisible threat of variants always looming nearby.

“I saw New York City has moved into the medium yellow risk category as (COVID) cases rise,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Heathy Living Foundation. “That sent off the little alarm bells in my head…it’s a little nerve wracking to be moving into this category.”

S3, Ep 17- “We Grieve Who We Once Were”

The majority of Americans are now believed to have had COVID. So as communities lower their guard, the strategy to fight the virus is as much rooted in vaccines and masking as it is with new drugs that are being approved. But for our immunocompromised community, the fear of contracting COVID keeps them isolated while they long for that time when they were once free from chronic illness.

“We’re all just one chronic disease away from being chronically ill,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Heathy Living Foundation. “I was once young and healthy before I got the diagnosis. We grieve who we once were and what we used to be able to do.”

S3, Ep 16- “Wear the Damn Mask”

Not everyone is cheering the news that the mask mandate on planes and trains has ended. While the Justice Department is appealing that ruling, those most susceptible to contracting COVID fear for their health and safety. In this episode, our hosts can’t contain their frustration and anger at those adults unwilling to wear masks for the common good.

“I don’t understand all these adults that act like children. For the good of people who are suffering; from immunocompromised, elderly, or whatever the case may be, just like wear the damn mask for a little bit longer,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Heathy Living Foundation.

S3, Ep 15- Becoming a Health Advocate Through Grief

Rashaunda Shaw became a health advocate when her mother and sister were both hospitalized and dying. Now, she’s turned her grief into purpose.

“In the midst of us grieving, we would start this foundation to advocate and raise awareness around digestive diseases in the African American community,” says Rashaunda, founder of the nonprofit Shakeilya Shaw Scholars Education Foundation.”

S3, Ep 14- Patients Fight, Advocates Unite

For patients with chronic illness, getting through a day is often daunting. But these same people have the power to impact change when they share their stories. Recently, the Global Healthy Living Foundation participated in an advocacy event to educate lawmakers on challenges facing people with digestive diseases — all in an effort to pass laws to help them.

“A brave person who is suffering from a chronic health care condition is willing to visit their legislator in Washington or get on a Zoom to talk about how they’re impacted by digestive diseases and educate them about what’s happening in their community,” says Dale Dirks of the Digestive Disease National Coalition.

S3, E13: Overcoming Years of Chronic Pain and Misdiagnoses

Imagine having severe abdominal pain, insomnia, and weight loss- and nobody knows how to diagnose you. For patients like Eric, it took painstaking years to properly diagnose him with chronic pancreatitis. In this episode, meet his sister, Megan Golden, who quit her job and launched a nonprofit to help.

“With many diseases that require specialty care, if you’re not near one of the few experts and have the ability to see them, then you’re just out of luck,” says Megan, co-founder and CEO of Mission Cure, a nonprofit with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

S3, E12: COVID Subvariant: Stay Vigiliant My Friends

The new Omicron subvariant BA.2 hasn’t stopped the majority of people from lowering their guard against the virus. Cities are opening, businesses are returning their workers, and even New York City unvaccinated athletes and performers are allowed back.

“I’m trying to stay calm and I’m really grateful for these at-home tests because I had a COVID exposure last week,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “I was able to keep testing and I just felt so reassured to have the test on hand and not freak out like I did in Omicron.”

S3, E11: COVID at 2: How We’ve Changed

We’ve passed a dubious anniversary we’d all rather forget. This month marks two years since COVID forced the world into a pandemic. In this episode, we look back at how life changed, and what changes may become permanent.

“Folks are really struggling with mental health issues two years in the pandemic,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “Even more so for our community with underlying conditions.”

S3, E10: The Power of Virtual Advocacy

One of the best ways to improve health care in the United States is to educate lawmakers. And these days, conversations are made easy through Zoom. Recently, health advocates from the GHLF participated virtually in the Digestive Disease National Coalition’s Public Policy Forum. Their aim was to encourage the passing of the Safe Step Act, which would protect patients from insurance companies overriding doctor’s recommended therapies, and direct money to digestive disease research.

“Virtual advocacy has given us the ability to reach legislators in a way in which we previously weren’t able to,” says Corey Greenblatt, Manager of Policy and Advocacy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

S3, E9: Calculating Risk, Staying COVID Safe

As the country eases mask mandates, people are now balancing the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID with their decision to let down their guard. For the immunocompromised, there remains caution, concern, and sometimes fear.

“Let’s also remember that mask optional doesn’t mean no mask. You can still wear a mask if you want to. I certainly will,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “The Health Advocates are masking up!”

S3, E8: mRNA: COVID and Beyond

mRNA vaccines have provided valuable protection against COVID. Now, researchers say they can also be used to create a variety of vaccines and treatments in less time and at lower cost than traditional methods.

“The mRNA technology has been known for decades, but it was never fully realized until this crisis. And this new technology is currently being studied in cancer therapies, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and rare genetic conditions,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

S3, E7: Disparities in Treatment for Migraine Patients

Disparities in migraine and headache care exist at every single level, from seeking care to diagnosis to treatment. In this episode, we talk with a leading advocate in the BIPOC community who has made it her life mission to sound the alarm to help reduce disparities in health outcomes.

“Migraine is the least funded research area relative to its very high disease burden. And I knew that this was something that I wanted to get involved in,” says Sarah Shaw, BIPOC Patient Advocate, Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

S3, E6: Living With the COVID Endemic

For many, life feels flat from dealing with COVID for nearly two years. In this episode, we examine the growing momentum of states across the United States starting to deal with COVID as an endemic and not a pandemic.

“We didn’t and we won’t eradicate COVID as was a hope once upon a time, but we have to be prepared to live with the endemic phase,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

S3, E5: Too Soon to Be #OverCOVID

COVID fatigue has resulted in many people questioning everything from booster to masks — but this fatigue is dangerous to our immunocompromised community. They don’t have the luxury of declaring that COVID is over.

“Coping with the uncertainty of yet another variant is taking a toll on our mental health,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “COVID is not over and we’ll keep advocating and keep our listeners updated as more information comes out.”

EXTRA – Part 2: Not Paying it Forward: Insurance Practices

It’s tough enough to live with and manage a chronic illness without insurance companies making it even harder. From utilization management tactics like step therapy to copay accumulator adjusters where insurers charge a patient twice, there are many systems in place that save insurance companies money and increase costs for patients.

“Imagine going to a drive-thru and say you know what, I want to be a Good Samaritan, I want to pay for the person’s meal behind me,” says Corey Greenblatt, Manager of Policy and Advocacy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “Person behind them drives up and the person at the window says, ‘Hey, even though the person in front of you just paid for your meal, you didn’t pay for it, so I’m going to charge you again.’ The drive-thru collects the money twice, and the person now has to pay for themselves, even though that was already paid for.”

EXTRA- Part 1: What is the Cheat Code for Insurance Companies

Insurance companies devise new ways to save and make money. One method is called utilization management, where insurers direct patients to treatments that are counter to what the patient’s doctor recommends. Utilization management is so important and controversial that we’re devoting two episodes to the topic, so patients are better informed and can better advocate for themselves.

“Imagine being in the exam room with me and my neurologist and then getting told by your insurance company that you’re not eligible for the treatment that you both decided would work for you. That’s what happened to me,” says Joe Coe, Director of Digital Education and Strategy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation and host of the Talking Head Pain Podcast. “And my neurologist needed to do a ton of paperwork called prior authorizations to get my medication approved.”

Season 3, Episode 4: COVID Mandates at the Olympics

Athletes competing in the Winter Olympics in China will get a taste of the strict safety precautions many immunocompromised people have been following since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Athletes are not eating out, they’re masking up, double masking when needed, and avoiding friends and family,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “So I guess the irony is that these super fit athletes are living life like the immunocompromised community,”  responds Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

In this episode, we dive into the COVID precautions being taken in China. Plus, we discuss the fourth vaccination that immunocompromised people in the United States are now eligible to receive.

Season 3, Episode 3: Free Tests and Best Masks

With Omicron still surging in much of the United States, more people are in need of getting tested for COVID. So free at-home tests are now available to all Americans. At the same time, there is new guidance for what type of mask we should be wearing to stay safe. In this episode, we provide useful information on how to obtain at-home tests and which masks are recommended.

“Now, we have the KN95, which is the Chinese respirator standard. These may be more likely to be a fake. I bring this up because I actually think I bought a fake one. I was a little disappointed to find out when I did my research,” reveals Zoe. “You got some fake ones?,” asks Steven. “Yeah, I think so,” laments Zoe.

Season 3, Episode 2: The Best Surprise, Is No Surprise

Patients will benefit from a new law that took effect to start this year, making it illegal for doctors and medical institutions to send surprise bills to patients. It’s estimated that 10 million surprise bills are sent to patients, usually when they have no choice but to use an out-of-network provider, often during emergency room visits.

“When you’re lying on the table there with that big bright light in your face about to go under, you’re not necessarily thinking, Hey, are you in my network?,” says Zoe. Steven adds, “It’s not even like you could say, wait a minute before we start, are you in my network? But the good news is surprise medical bills are now, surprise, illegal.”

Season 3, Episode 1: Omicron: An Excess of Selfishness

As we start a New Year with the Omicron variant raging, there’s both a sense of hope and concern. There’s hope that symptoms are mild and we could reach herd immunity — and there’s concern that many people still aren’t vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.

In this episode, co-host Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation, tells the story of a person who recently refused to put on a mask in her apartment building, despite the known mask policy. “The doorman politely said, ‘Could you please put a mask on?’ And then the guy said, ‘Everyone I know has COVID, I’ll just get it when I get it. If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. Why do we even need this?’ And I was standing right there being like, you have no idea that you think this is a young healthy group here, but it’s not and people are living with serious conditions,” laments Zoe.

Catch up on season two with Steven and Zoe.

Season 2, Episode 12: Omicron: What Would George Carlin Say?

The rise in Omicron has put added stress on doctors and nurses, as well as on our emotions as we weigh whether to change holiday plans. New restrictions are in place, people are double-masking, boosters lag behind, and at-home COVID tests are hard to find. The uncertainty in how we should respond to Omicron reminds one of our hosts of a famous George Carlin joke, bouncing emotions between an idiot and a maniac.

“If I’m double masked, and I see someone wearing three masks, I’m like that person’s crazy. That person’s a lunatic. But if I see someone with only one mask or not masked, of course, I’m like, what an idiot, that person’s an idiot,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 11: Omicron: Are We Going Backward?

Pandemics historically end after two to three years, but with the emerging Omicron variant, the question remains: Are we coming out of the pandemic or going backward? And how will we know when we cross the finish line and the pandemic is over?

“There’s never going to be a bright line that we cross but there’ll be a moment when hospitalizations are down, when we have the therapeutics to help us if we do get sick, similar with the flu and hopefully the strains will become less and less virulent,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 10: The Future of Drug Prices

There are many factors at play when addressing the cost of prescription drugs. A recent poll showing 83% of adults think the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. In this episode, we examine several proposals being considered by Congress.

“So complicated. It seems like this could have really big implications for drug pricing and it will be interesting to see how this plays out especially because so many in our community rely on drugs to live meaningfully and daily life with their conditions,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 9: Should We Fear the Variant Omicron?

The majority of Americans have been vaccinated, including the millions of people who have already received an extra booster shot. But how will these vaccines protect us from the new variant Omicron?

“Take precautions, lets prepare ourselves by being calm and if we have to lose that calm and become crazy, we’ll deal with that when we have to deal with it,“ says Steven Newmark- Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 8: To Boost Or Not To Boost

Studies show COVID vaccines wane over time, leading to a push for a booster, or an additional shot of the COVID vaccine. In this episode, we explore whether to get the booster, when to get it and how often.

“Needles are intimidating for sure and I definitely felt a lot safer after getting the third shot,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 7: The Holidays, Big Bird, and COVID

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…the holidays, holidays that will feel different from last year thanks to vaccines, COVID testing, and the lifting of the travel ban. But there are still precautions you need to take to protect yourself from the pandemic.

“I do want to scream, I said, “what do you think is going to happen in a few weeks that hasn’t already happened?” These vaccines have been around for a long time. They’ve been tested, tested, and tested. Get it as soon as possible,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 6: The New Phase of COVID

COVID fatigue has set in and there won’t be a big party to announce the pandemic is over. So how do we shift the debate from how to end the pandemic to how to live with it? Plus, what impact does the pandemic have on our mental state and for people living with chronic illness?

“I think the goal at this point is no longer to eradicate COVID. The priority now is to remove it from being the guiding force in all of our lives, says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 5: Public Health Under Attack

A sad consequence of the pandemic is the erosion of trust in public health officials. Physical threats, cuts in funding and changes in laws have led to an exodus of qualified public health workers in the United States. In this episode, we explore how this crisis goes beyond the pandemic and what this means for you as someone living with chronic disease.

“Public health departments have been at the forefront of delivering vaccines that helped eradicate smallpox and polio. Public health officials are responsible for so much more than the direct individual being,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate and Community Outreach Manager at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 4: A Dose of Politics

Congress is debating two major pieces of legislation that could have an impact on patients, especially ones with chronic illness who rely on prescription drugs. We dive into the fray to examine the tradeoffs of negotiating lower drug prices.

“Obviously we want it all. We all want cheap drugs but we also want more advances. Ultimately you cannot have everything. Drug prices seem to be an easy target because unlike, say, the prices of cars, they include products that can save one’s life,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 3: Mandates and Personal Liberties

Vaccine mandates are taking over the political landscape in upcoming elections. But are vaccine mandates a matter of personal liberties and if so, whose liberties are more important: those vaccinated or those who refuse to be?

“I’ve been carded at a restaurant for my vaccine and I feel so much safer and I think that can bring a lot of comfort to people in our community knowing that you’re going into a building that’s safe and if you are going to sit down at a restaurant and if the mask comes off, you know that those around you are vaccinated so the spread is lower,” says co-host Zoe Rothblatt.

Season 2, Episode 2: True Test Stories

Two podcast hosts traveling in two states share two memorable stories of searching for or being required to get a rapid COVID test.

“The price of a McDonald’s hamburger is the price of a McDonald’s hamburger but the price of an at-home COVID test really does vary depending on where you are in this country,” says Steven Newmark, Director of Policy at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

Season 2, Episode 1: Confusion, Confusion

As we start season two, we have a new look, a new title and a renewed focus. Steven and Zoe walk us through the confusion over vaccines, boosters and conflicting scientific opinions. On top of this, we see how trust is compromised when government agencies don’t agree.

“Confusion might be an understatement,” says Zoe Rothblatt, Patient Advocate at the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

About Our Hosts

StevenNewmark_3669

Steven Newmark

Steven Newmark, JD, MPA, is Director of Policy and General Counsel. Steven leads global advocacy and policy initiatives. He was most recently Special Counsel to the President of NYC Health + Hospitals in New York City. Before that he served as the Senior Health Policy Adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also served as General Counsel in Mayor de Blasio’s Public Advocate office, and as a Health Sciences Litigation Associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP in New York City where he was part of the team that successfully defended the Vaccine Act before the Supreme Court in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth.
Additionally, he has taught Public Policy at Columbia University and is an Adjunct Professor in U.S. Health Policy at the City University of New York, Baruch College. He received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law and his Master of Public Policy and Administration, Advanced Policy and Management from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He received his Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, Politics and Law from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Zoe-Photo

Zoe Rothblatt

Zoe Rothblatt, MPH, is a Patient Advocate, Community Outreach Manager and engages in direct patient communications, supporting GHLF’s patient councils and board of governors. Zoe is responsible for understanding patient needs and creating patient-centered resources as well as researching policy initiatives. She earned a Master of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, with a focus on Health Policy and Management. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Health: Science, Society and Policy from Brandeis University. Prior to joining GHLF, Zoe worked at the Community Service Society of New York as a community health advocate providing direct service, advocacy, advice and referrals for patients needing assistance.

Catch up on season one, titled “News You Can Use” with Steven and Zoe.

Season 1, Episode 8: Airborne viruses can be stopped with masks

Steven and Zoe are in conversation this episode on mask, mask, masks. And the learnings on how to handle COVID-19 in our new normal this summer.

This episode helps to provide hindsight on where we are and where we’ve been.

Season 1, Episode 7: Did the COVID-19 outbreak come from a lab?

Steven covers if the COVID-19 virus came from a lab, what that means, and how the government is taking action against the virus. While Zoe covers how we can work together as a global society.

This episode helps to understand the origins of the virus and how the world can work together to continue decreasing cases.

Season 1, Episode 6: Listen to the science but do what makes you comfortable

Steven covers how COVID-19 numbers are dropping across the United States while vaccination rates increase. While Zoe covers how immunocompromised people can feel safe reaching back to the new normal. This episode is great for those who are immunocompromised or share concerns about mask-wearing changes.

Season 1, Episode 5: But what does it mean, the plague? It’s life, that’s all

Steven covers the CDC’s rule revisions on mask-wearing for those vaccinated, while Zoe dissects the difficulties people may face with re-entering the new normal after vaccination. This show answers philosophical questions that arise after pandemics and shares insights into how politics come into play.

Season 1, Episode 4: What are the international COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategies?

Steven covers the different vaccine rollout strategies between the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and Chile. The team dissects the strategies in full. While the BLATTs cover the big questions on everyone’s minds: When will we reach herd immunity, is a 60% or 70% vaccination rate enough, will we need yearly COVID-19 vaccination boosters? How does access and availability of vaccinations improve the quality of life for Americans? This week’s show asks a lot of questions, so you have the answers.

Season 1, Episode 3: How do we get to herd immunity?

Steven and the BLATTs cover critical questions on how we segregate science from politics and see US citizens using the supply of vaccines in the country. This week’s show is an important one to share with friends.

Season 1, Episode 2: Are we in a Catch-22 situation?

Steven covers a Catch-22 decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout. While the BLATTs share their thoughts on the ‘darned if you do, darned if you don’t’ vaccine rollout dilemma.

Season 1, Episode 1: Health policy and how it relates to you

Steven covers the nagging question where did the COVID-19 virus come from? While the BLATTs dive deep into public privacy and possible future frictions of a COVID-19 passport.

Trailer: GHLF News You Can Use

This is News You Can Use. Twenty minutes each week. Hosted by Steven Newmark and the BLATTs.

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