September 27, 2021

News

News Network

Harnessing Technology to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation

15 min read

Physical distancing has played a critical role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and, particularly in hotspots and for people at increased risk of serious illness, it continues to save lives. However, physical distancing also is increasing risk of social isolation for many, particularly older adults and people with disabilities, which is a serious issue.

Research tells us that social isolation can threaten health, and regular social interactions and having a strong personal network are important to a person’s mental and physical health, resilience, and longevity. In fact, loneliness can pose as grave a threat to a person’s health as smoking, obesity, or substance abuse. Loneliness can take a toll on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health and may manifest in various ways. Health concerns stemming from social deprivation include high blood pressure, sleeplessness or less restful sleep, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. In addition, lack of human interaction may increase hormone levels that contribute to inflammation and weakened immunity, thereby increasing the risk of diseases.

In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40% of survey respondents experienced anxiety or depressive disorder, trauma- and stressor-related disorder, an onset or increase of substance use to cope with stress, or suicidal ideation related to COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the mental health implications of loneliness may lead to decreases in performance or productivity. These findings are important for remote workers, employers and educators. Loneliness may affect a person’s creativity, reasoning, and decision-making and may lead to cognitive decline.

Loneliness stemming from social isolation is a public health concern that must be addressed – and COVID-19 has increased the urgency.

The good news is that there are many resources available to help people become—and remain—connected even while they are physically isolated, which can help ward off loneliness. The bad news is that people often are not aware of these assets.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) have partnered with other supporting entities to help people become—and remain—connected and ward off loneliness, even while they are physically isolated. The Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Challenge seeks to spur development of an easy to use, online tool that helps older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans learn about and access resources that can help them stay connected to family, friends, and their communities. This free resource will match people with appropriate technology tools, social engagement programs and social activities that fit their needs. Through the MENTAL Health Challenge, vulnerable and socially isolated people will be better equipped to engage with family, friends and distant loved ones to experience the benefits of closer human connections.

To learn more about the challenge and to get involved, visit the ACL website at https://acl.gov/MENTAL.

News Network

  • Decennial Census: Bureau Should Assess Significant Data Collection Challenges as It Undertakes Planning for 2030
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In March 2020, the Census Bureau (Bureau) delayed the start of field data collection because of COVID-19 safety, and then revised several operational timelines in response to the pandemic and Department of Commerce (Commerce) decisions. Nationally the Bureau reported completing more than 99 percent of nonresponse follow-up cases (households that have not responded to the census) by October 15, 2020. The Bureau attributes the use of technology as among the reasons it completed the work by this date. The Bureau, however, had lower completion percentages ranging between 94 and 99 for 10 local geographic areas, in part because of natural disasters and COVID-19. For example, according to the Bureau, in Shreveport, Louisiana, short-term closures stemming from the hurricane impacted data collection for 82,863 housing units. As a mitigation strategy, the Bureau shifted the Shreveport operation to telephone enumeration and brought in more than 1,200 enumerators from travel teams. Despite these efforts, the Bureau was unable to complete 22,588 cases in Shreveport before data collection ended. For these cases the Bureau will need to rely on alternate methods including imputation, which draws data from similar nearby households to determine whether a housing unit exists, whether it is occupied, and, if so, by how many people. In addition to the challenges brought on by natural disasters, the Bureau encountered other difficulties during nonresponse follow-up, such as, the inability of supervisors to reassign open cases in a timely fashion. GAO found that census field supervisors did not have the authority to reassign cases and had to wait for the field manager to make those reassignments. Bureau officials told GAO it would consider the reassignment of cases as it moves towards planning for the 2030 Census. To monitor nonresponse follow-up, the Bureau used quality control procedures, such as real-time monitoring of enumerator activities by supervisors and training assessments. However, GAO found the Bureau did not have proper controls in place, allowing some enumerators to work without having passed the required training assessment. The Bureau agreed that additional controls were necessary. The Bureau planned to count individuals living in group quarters, such as skilled-nursing and correctional facilities, between April 2, 2020, and June 5, 2020, but revised those dates to July 1, 2020, through September 3, 2020. The pandemic made it difficult to count group quarters. For example, Bureau staff found it challenging to locate a point of contact at some group quarters because facilities were closed due to the pandemic. Bureau officials told us that in December 2020 they decided to re-contact more than 24,000 out of approximately 272,000 group quarter facilities to collect data, and that imputation would be used to count individuals at the remaining facilities still reporting a zero population count. The Bureau is updating plans to assess operations and identify resulting lessons learned from the 2020 Census. As part of its planning for 2030, it will be important for the Bureau to assess the impact of the 2020 late design changes and the operations' challenges that arose. Why GAO Did This Study The 2020 Census was conducted under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related Commerce decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. As GAO previously reported, these changes introduced risks to the quality of data that the Bureau provides for congressional apportionment and redistricting purposes. GAO was asked to review the Bureau's implementation of the 2020 Census. This report assesses the Bureau's implementation of the: (1) nonresponse follow-up operation, (2) group quarters enumeration, and (3) plans to assess those operations. To address these objectives, GAO conducted a series of surveys of all 248 census offices during the collection of data for those operations. GAO also monitored the cost and progress of operations and interviewed census field supervisors for each operation.
    [Read More…]
  • Missile Defense: Observations on Ground-based Midcourse Defense Acquisition Challenges and Potential Contract Strategy Changes
    In U.S GAO News
    The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is developing a system to defend the U.S. from long-range missile attacks. As MDA continues to develop this system, called Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), it has opportunities to incorporate into its approach lessons learned from over 2 decades of system development. MDA has made progress in developing and fielding elements of the GMD system. For example, MDA is constructing a new missile field to expand the fleet of interceptors. However, MDA has also experienced significant setbacks. Most recently, the Department of Defense canceled development of a key GMD element, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle, in 2019 because of fundamental problems with the system's design. Ongoing Construction of a New Ground-based Midcourse Defense Interceptor Field (July 16, 2019) Over the years, GAO has identified practices that MDA could apply to the GMD program to improve acquisition outcomes, such as: Using knowledge-based acquisition practices Involving stakeholders early and often Providing effective oversight Promoting competition Performing robust testing GAO has also made numerous recommendations to improve MDA's acquisition outcomes and reduce risk. As of July 2020, the department has concurred with most of the recommendations GAO made since MDA's inception in 2002. Although the department has implemented many of the recommendations, it has further opportunities to implement the remaining open recommendations and apply lessons learned on a major, new effort to develop a next-generation GMD interceptor. Since the late 1990s, DOD has executed the GMD program through a prime contractor responsible for developing and integrating the entire weapon system. MDA is considering taking over these responsibilities for GMD for the next phase of the program. GAO found that this approach offers potential benefits to the agency, such as more direct control over and greater insight into GMD's cost, schedule, and performance. However, the approach has some challenges that, if not addressed, could outweigh the benefits. For example, MDA may encounter challenges obtaining the technical data and staffing levels necessary to manage this complex weapon system, which could ultimately affect its availability or readiness. As of October 2020, MDA has not yet determined an acquisition strategy for the next phase of the GMD program. The GMD system aims to defend the U.S. against ballistic missile attacks from rogue states like North Korea or Iran. DOD has been developing this system since the 1990s and has spent $53 billion on the system so far. GMD is a complex system that includes interceptors and a ground system, and MDA has largely relied on a contractor, Boeing, to manage development and system integration. MDA is considering moving away from this approach as the program embarks on developing a key element of the GMD, a new interceptor. The House Armed Services Committee included a provision in a report for GAO to assess the GMD contract structure and identify potential opportunities to improve government management and contractor accountability. This report addresses (1) the lessons learned from challenges MDA encountered acquiring the GMD system and (2) the potential benefits and risks of MDA taking over system integration responsibilities for GMD. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed GMD program documentation, prior GAO reports on missile defense, GAO interviews with other DOD components, and expert panel reviews of GMD. GAO also spoke with officials from MDA and other DOD components. GAO has 17 open recommendations aimed at improving missile defense acquisition outcomes and reducing risk. Recently, DOD has taken steps to address some of these open recommendations, but further action is needed to fully implement the remaining recommendations. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or russellw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Southern Colorado Man Sentenced to More Than 19 Years for Plotting to Blow Up Synagogue
    In Crime News
    A Colorado man was sentenced today in federal court in Colorado for plotting to blow up a synagogue.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Jayme West and Jim Sharpe of Arizona Morning News on KTAR Phoenix
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • FY 2020 Excise Tax: Agreed-Upon Procedures Related to Distributions to Trust Funds
    In U.S GAO News
    The procedures that GAO agreed to perform on fiscal year 2020 net excise tax distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the results of those procedures are described in the enclosures to this report. The sufficiency of these procedures is solely the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for certifying quarterly net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. The Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) is responsible for developing reasonable estimates of net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. These IRS certifications and OTA estimates are the basis of the net excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF. GAO was not engaged to perform, and did not perform, an examination or review. Accordingly, GAO does not express such an opinion or conclusion. The purpose of this report is solely to describe agreed-upon procedures related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the general fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, and the report is not suitable for any other purpose. IRS agreed with the findings related to the procedures performed concerning excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF during the fiscal year 2020. OTA stated that it had no comments on the report. GAO performed agreed-upon procedures solely to assist the DOT OIG in ascertaining whether the net excise tax revenue distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020, is supported by information from the Department of the Treasury, including IRS's excise tax receipt certifications and OTA's estimates. DOT OIG is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet its objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The procedures that GAO agreed to perform were related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the General Fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, including (1) IRS's quarterly AATF and HTF excise tax certifications prepared during fiscal year 2020 and (2) OTA's estimates of excise tax amounts to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2020. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or clarkce@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Canadian Foreign Minister Garneau
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Ministerial with Allies and Partners on Afghanistan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Chief Justice Roberts Issues 2020 Year-End Report
    In U.S Courts
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has issued his 2020 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.
    [Read More…]
  • State Department Terrorist Designation of Saraya al-Mukhtar
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • United States Files Complaint to Forfeit Iranian Missiles and Sells Previously-Transferred Iranian Petroleum
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced the filing of a complaint to forfeit two shipments of Iranian missiles that the U.S. Navy seized in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militant groups in Yemen, as well as the sale of approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum that the United States previously obtained from four foreign-flagged oil tankers bound for Venezuela. 
    [Read More…]
  • Telecommunications: FCC Has Implemented the Lifeline National Verifier but Should Improve Consumer Awareness and Experience
    In U.S GAO News
    As of June 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required consumers nationwide to use the Lifeline National Verifier (Verifier), a centralized process and data system, to check their eligibility for Lifeline. Because consumers who participate in certain federal benefits programs qualify for discounted phone and internet service through Lifeline, the Verifier checks state and federal benefits databases to verify consumers' eligibility. The Verifier also includes a manual review process for consumers to submit documents proving their eligibility if they cannot be found in a database. As of November 2020, the Verifier had connections with databases in 20 states and 2 federal agencies. GAO found that although consumers in states without state database connections had the same likelihood of actually meeting eligibility requirements as consumers in states with such connections, they were less likely to be found eligible for Lifeline through the Verifier (see figure). Average Eligibility Determination for New Lifeline Applicants in States with and without State Database Connections to the Lifeline National Verifier, June 2018 through June 2020 FCC coordinated with state and federal stakeholders to implement the Verifier. However, stakeholders told GAO that many eligible consumers are not aware of the Verifier or Lifeline. Consumers may lack this awareness because FCC's consumer education planning did not always align with key practices, such as developing consistent, clear messages and researching target audiences. As a result, eligible consumers may not apply for Lifeline. Moreover, while FCC originally envisioned tribal governments and organizations assisting residents of tribal lands with the Verifier, it has not provided them with quality information to effectively do so. Although FCC reported that the Verifier is meeting its goal of improving the consumer experience, GAO found that the manual review process, which FCC used to determine the eligibility of more than half of applicants in many states, is challenging for consumers. However, FCC does not collect complete information on consumers' experience with this process, and thus is limited in its ability to identify and address the challenges consumers face. Such challenges likely contributed to eligible consumers giving up on their applications. For example, we found that more than two-thirds of applicants who underwent manual review between June 2018 and June 2020 did not complete their applications. FCC's Lifeline program discounts phone and internet service for eligible low-income consumers. In 2019, FCC authorized $982 million in support for 6.9 million eligible consumers. FCC created the Verifier with the stated goals of reducing fraud and costs and improving the consumer experience. The Verifier includes an online application, connections to state and federal benefits databases, and a standardized manual review process. GAO was asked to review FCC's implementation of the Verifier. This report examines: (1) the status of the Verifier; (2) FCC's coordination with stakeholders and efforts to educate consumers and facilitate tribal stakeholders' involvement; and (3) the extent to which the Verifier is meeting its goals. GAO reviewed FCC orders and documentation; analyzed Verifier performance and Lifeline subscriber data; interviewed FCC and other agency officials, and selected industry, state, tribal, and consumer stakeholders; and surveyed state officials. Stakeholders were selected to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making six recommendations, including that FCC develop a consumer education plan, provide quality information to tribal organizations, and collect information on consumers' experience with the manual review process. FCC agreed to take steps to address all of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202)-512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The Honorable Douglas H. Ginsburg Receives Justice Department’s 2020 John Sherman Award
    In Crime News
    The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice today presented Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg with the John Sherman Award for his lifetime contributions to the development of antitrust law and the preservation of economic liberty.  The award is the Department of Justice’s highest antitrust honor. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim presented the award and gave remarks  celebrating Judge Ginsburg’s contributions during a ceremony displayed virtually and conducted at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.  Judge Ginsburg also delivered remarks in accepting the award.  
    [Read More…]
  • Tax Preparer Charged with COVID-19 Loan Fraud
    In Crime News
    A South Florida tax preparer was charged Tuesday by criminal information with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to obtain over 100 COVID-19-relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at Sembremos Seguridad Site Visit
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Former Tallahassee City Commissioner and Business Partner Sentenced for Years-Long Bribery Scheme
    In Crime News
    Former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his former business partner Paige Carter-Smith were sentenced today in the Northern District of Florida to five years and two years in prison, respectively, for their roles in a multi-year scheme to use Maddox’s power as a sitting City Commissioner to extract bribes from Tallahassee companies with business in front of the City Commission. Maddox and Carter-Smith were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $76,763 and $115,619, respectively, and ordered to pay a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $70,000.
    [Read More…]
  • Kosovo Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Alabama for Unconstitutional Conditions in State’s Prisons for Men
    In Crime News
    Today, the Justice Department filed suit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections. The complaint alleges that the conditions at Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Constitution because Alabama fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff. 
    [Read More…]
  • Genetics, Diagnosis, Treatment: NIH Takes On Sickle Cell Disease
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Each year, some 150,000 [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with the United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Doctor, Clinic Owner and Staff Charged with Falsifying Clinical Trial Data
    In Crime News
    In an indictment unsealed today, a federal grand jury in Miami charged a Florida medical doctor and three others for their roles in an alleged scheme to falsify clinical trial data.
    [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.