Political Violence, COVID-19 Vaccine Questions, Mental Health Care: RAND Weekly Recap

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January 15, 2021

We discuss the threat of continued political violence after the U.S. Capitol attack; insights from RAND experts on COVID-19 vaccines; transforming mental health care in America; the spike in telehealth use during the pandemic; civic engagement in the COVID-19 era; and why the United States sends aid to foreign countries.

Supporters of the outgoing president, Donald Trump, climb a wall during a deadly mob assault on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, January 6, 2021, photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Photo by Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

We Need to Brace for More Violence

It's been just over a week since a mob of the president's supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. Five people died as a result. Yesterday, the House of Representatives impeached President Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”

According to RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, a renowned terrorism expert, it's lucky that the attack wasn't a massacre. Congress reconvened shortly after the assault to certify the election results, and so democracy held. But security “failed spectacularly,” he says.

In the near term, attention is understandably focused on any security threats during President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week. But Jenkins warns that the United States has entered a new era in which political violence may continue well into the future: “The 2020s could turn out to be a turbulent decade.”

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered during a drive through event at InclusivCare in Avondale, Louisiana, January 9, 2021 photo by Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered during a drive-through event in Avondale, Louisiana, January 9, 2021

Photo by Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

As the Vaccines Arrive, So Do the Questions

Is one COVID-19 vaccine better than another? Why has the initial vaccine rollout been so challenging? And what can be done to help convince people to get the shot? RAND experts recently discussed key questions related to COVID-19 vaccines. Importantly, they cautioned people to continue to be careful after getting vaccinated. It's still unknown whether those who are exposed to the virus after being vaccinated might still be able to transmit it to others.

Person standing in a field looking toward mountains in the distance. Photo by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

Photo by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

Transforming Mental Health Care in America

High levels of unmet need for mental health care. Limited community-based supports. Disparities in access to care and quality of services. The U.S. mental health system faces serious challenges. But recent trends—such as expanded mental health care coverage and bipartisan support for reform—suggest that the country could clear these hurdles. To help identify a path forward, RAND researchers interviewed experts and conducted a comprehensive review of mental health care best practices and innovations.

Male black patient on conference video call with female Black doctor, photo by insta_photos/Getty Images

Photo by insta_photos/Getty Images

Telehealth Use Spiked as Pandemic Shutdown Began

Between mid-March and early May 2020, more than 50 percent of Americans with a behavioral health condition said that they used telemedicine. Among those with a chronic physical condition, more than 40 percent turned to telehealth. That's according to a new RAND study. Notably, some groups used telemedicine more than others. This highlights the importance of ensuring equal access if these services remain popular after the pandemic.

Volunteers help at an annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, Inglewood, California, November 23, 2020, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Volunteers help at an annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, Inglewood, California, November 23, 2020

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Civic Engagement in the COVID-19 Era

Did the turbulence and tragedy of 2020 lead to a renewed sense of civic engagement? To find out, RAND conducted a survey that emphasizes the perspectives of Americans who are disproportionately shouldering the social and economic burdens of the pandemic. Overall, the results show that many people—despite struggling themselves—are helping their neighbors by supporting local businesses, volunteering and donating money, or working to change policies that will improve their communities.

A consignment of USAID medical equipment is offloaded at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, August 24, 2014, photo by James Giahyue/Reuters

A consignment of USAID medical equipment is offloaded at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, Liberia, August 24, 2014

Photo by James Giahyue/Reuters

Why the U.S. Sends Aid to Foreign Countries

Some view foreign aid as charity at the American taxpayers' expense. But that's not accurate, says RAND's Raphael Cohen: Providing foreign aid serves U.S. self-interest. It can help keep Americans safer, more prosperous, and secure. For example, consider the investments that enable other states to combat terrorism or stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Such support can prevent crises from escalating to a point where they require direct U.S. intervention.

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