JOHN YANG: Tonight on "PBS News Weekend," a new study looks at the link between higher life expectancy for black Americans and access to black physicians.
Then what Montana is doing to tackle the teacher shortage crisis.
CURTIS SMEBY: So when folks asked me where are the teachers of tomorrow?
I often say they're already in your classrooms, you just got to get started on.
JOHN YANG: And experts explain why this spring's allergy season is so bad, and what you could do to breathe easier.
(BREAK) JOHN YANG: Good evening, I'm John Yang.
The pace of the mass departures from the unrelenting fighting and Sudan is stepping up.
Tonight the State Department says the first overland convoy organized by the U.S. government has safely delivered about 300 Americans from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
It took about 24 hours for the convoy of buses to make the 525-mile journey.
Armed American drones hovered high overhead on the lookout for threats.
The Americans will not have traveled to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where other nations have already evacuated their citizens.
The United States airlifted diplomats out of the country last weekend and has helped some Americans get seats on flights organized by allied nations.
In Khartoum smoked out of the skyline and gun and artillery fire was heard.
A shaky 72-hour ceasefire expected to end Sunday night has done little to interrupt the fighting.
Those remaining in the capital city are sheltering with water and supplies running low as the violent conflict between two rival generals enters a third week.
More than 500 people are dead, nearly 5000 wounded.
Russia says Ukrainian drone struck a fuel depot and the illegally annexed territory of Crimea today.
It ignited a massive blaze that was visible for miles.
Ukraine wouldn't claim responsibility for the attack but an official said the strike was God's punishment for a Russian missile strike on Ukrainian apartment complex just a day ago.
At least 23 people including several children died in that attack.
A man on his underway in Texas for a suspect police believe used an AR-15 style rifle late last night to kill five of his neighbors including an eight-year-old child in a community outside of Houston.
Authority say the family had asked the suspect their next-door neighbor to stop firing a gun in his yard because they were trying to sleep.
According to the gun violence archive the United States is on a record pace in 2023 for shootings with four or more deaths.
There have been 17 so far this year.
That's an average of one every week.
The Mississippi River is threatening communities along expanse this weekend rising to the highest levels in decades as the giant snowpack up river in Minnesota melts.
Across Iowa from the Quad Cities down to Dubuque.
Residents are preparing for the worst as the river spills into communities.
It's forecast to crest by Monday morning.
In California much of the eastern part of the Yosemite National Park is closed at least until next week, due to flooding.
The Merced River which cuts through the park will rise to dangerous levels as their record mountain snowpack melts.
Still to come on "PBS News Weekend," Montana's plan to ease teacher shortages in rural America and the science behind this particularly bad allergy season.
(BREAK) JOHN YANG: As we've reported recently, life expectancy in the United States is now at its lowest level in nearly two decades, and the projected lifetimes of black and Native Americans are shorter than for white Americans.
New research offers an insight on a potential factor driving this disparity, it finds that black people live longer in areas with more black primary care doctors.
Michael Dill is one of the authors of the study.
He's the Director of Workforce Studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools and training hospitals.
How big a benefit or how big a difference is there between life expectancy for black Americans in a county with no black physicians and in counties with at least one black physician?
MICHAEL DILL, Association of American Medical Colleges: Well, John, what we found is that for every 10% increase in the relative Representation of Black primary care physicians, we saw a one month increase in life expectancy for black people living in those same counties.
JOHN YANG: They don't even have to be the patient of the black physician?
MICHAEL DILL: That's right.
We weren't looking at whether or not those black primary care doctors were seeing the black people in the county.
It's just if they're in the same county.
JOHN YANG: This was a correlation rather than cause and effect.
But do you have any theories as to why this is?
MICHAEL DILL: Well, there are any number of explanations.
Part of it is that, you know, black primary care physicians and black physicians in general are more likely to work in underserved areas.
And it was in the lowest income areas where we saw the biggest difference in life expectancy.
And part of it is also that it improves provider choice.
There's also some research to show that, you know, community level access improves with a more diverse workforce.
In fact, our research shows exactly that.
For example, my own primary care physician who's a black woman set up a practice in an area that was very diverse, specifically because she wanted to improve access in that community.
And I think we're seeing some of that in our findings.
JOHN YANG: I was also interested to note that as you began this research, you knocked out half the counties in America, because they don't even have a single black primary care physician?
MICHAEL DILL: That's true, that's true.
There are a couple of explanations for that.
But overall, it is worth noting simply because we don't have enough black primary care physicians or even enough black doctors, not nearly enough.
I mean, the physician workforce overall in the United States has maybe about 6% black physicians, whereas we know the population as a whole is more than twice that.
So and there are also of course, some counties where there just aren't very many people.
So that's part of it too, to be completely transparent about what we were seeing.
JOHN YANG: How can you get more black people to get into the medical field, to be a physician?
MICHAEL DILL: There are multi layered barriers to black people entering the field of medicine, and we need to address all of those.
Our own member institutions are constantly working on improving, you know, their admissions processes using more holistic admission, et cetera.
But they also run what we call pathway programs designed to introduce undergraduate students to the possibility of practicing medicine.
But the issue goes back further than that, it goes to, you know, high school, middle school, primary education levels, even pre-K really in terms of the educational pathway.
And we're focused right now at AMC in particular, looking at K through 12, and STEM education, and enhancing and supporting that in any way we can, because it really is a long-term endeavor to improve the representation of black people and other historically excluded groups in the field of medicine.
JOHN YANG: As they say, there was no cause and effect in this study.
It was a correlation.
But what lessons do you think the medical profession or public health experts should be drawing for this?
MICHAEL DILL: I would say that there are three main lessons to be learned.
One is that just overall, an adequate number of physicians is crucial to the health of all.
Two is that a robust primary care workforce, it's important for population health.
And three is that diversity, and within the physician workforce in the health workforce overall, is in everyone's best interest.
JOHN YANG: Michael Dell of the Association of American Medical Colleges, thank you very much.
MICHAEL DILL: Thank you.
JOHN YANG: Montana schools have faced a staggering shortage of teachers for years, especially in rural areas and on Native American reservations.
The pandemic brought new urgency and new ideas for how to tackle the crisis system.
Stan Parke of Montana PBS reports on a new program that hopes to inspire the next generation of teachers.
MANDY NITZ, High School Teacher: Good morning, Havre High.
STAN PARKER: In Mandy Nitz' Havre High classroom, these students are learning what a career in education is all about.
Like Emerald Tinsley.
EMERALD TINSLEY, High School Student: I really enjoy working with kids, and helping kids.
And I just want what I do to make an impact.
STAN PARKER: The program, called Teachers of Promise Pathways is run by Montana State University Northern, it allows high school students to earn college credit, putting them on a quicker path to getting back in the classroom, as teachers.
EMERALD TINSLEY: So here's what I would like you to do for a few minutes.
STAN PARKER: Today, Emerald in her classmates are looking at all the open jobs for teachers in the state.
EMERALD TINSLEY: There's a lot of openings on that first page, and then you'll see that you can go to page 10 and beyond.
And that's just for the State of Montana.
There's like six openings (inaudible).
STAN PARKER: It's a glimpse into the teacher shortage in Montana and nationwide that those education are calling the crisis.
MANDY NITZ: For one thing, we have empty classrooms in our building.
And that's not because we have fewer students.
We actually have more students this year than we have in years.
But we don't have the staff to fill the classrooms.
STAN PARKER: The writing's on the wall for years.
But during the pandemic, the number of jobs going unfilled has skyrocketed.
MANDY NITZ: And so a lot of teachers I think just said, I just can't keep doing this, because there wasn't a clear end in sight.
STAN PARKER: The mission now is to both recruit and retain teachers, something schools and rural and reservation Montana have been grappling with for a long time.
Curtis Smeby, he chairs to have our school board and helped put this program together.
His goal is to get more school districts involved.
CURTIS SMEBY, Havre Public School Board and Chair: So when folks asked me where are the teachers of tomorrow, I often say to high school principals and superintendents, they're already in your classrooms, you just got to get them started on it.
MANDY NITZ: It's your job.
It's waiting for you.
STAN PARKER: In 2021, Montana legislators passed a law to fund more programs like this one.
The bill also lets students get more college credits for free while still in high school.
And once the students are in college, they'll receive up to $10,000 in tuition reimbursement, if they teach for three years in a high need area.
MANDY NITZ: We need the teachers and we need them sooner rather than later.
We also know that most teachers will teach within about a 50-mile radius of where they themselves graduated from high school.
STAN PARKER: Classroom experience is a key part of the student to teacher pipeline.
But some students like Emerald have taken that a step further by actually working as unlicensed staff in elementary schools.
She works four days a week at a fourth-grade classroom at Sunnyside Intermediate School, giving students personalized attention when they need it.
EMERALD TINSLEY: All right, well, one more time.
Who wants to do pop coordinating?
STAN PARKER: Leading a reading group and even getting a head start saving up for retirement through the state's pension plan.
EMERALD TINSLEY: It gives me something to look forward to every day.
I'm always super excited to come here.
PAX HASLEM, Sunnyside Intermediate School Principal: They're either going to realize they want to be a teacher or they're not, right?
And so I go off to college and spend four years thinking I want to be a teacher and then realize that we're not.
STAN PARKER: Pax Haslem is the principal at Sunnyside.
What's it like trying to keep a school fully staffed in Havre Montana?
PAX HASLEM: It's difficult.
I think so right now I am short one special education teacher in our district, every buildings short, a special education teacher.
So yeah, my day is doing a lot of covering.
Right now as a principal, I average just over a day per week or I'm in the classroom.
STAN PARKER: Pay for teachers still lags more than 30% behind other college educated professionals, a wage gap that's grown steadily over the past 10 years.
PAX HASLEM: You start to think about paying the bills and the price of gas and the price of homes and the price of mortgage and rent.
And teacher salaries aren't keeping up with it.
STAN PARKER: Job related stress for teachers and principals is more than twice that of the average working adult.
And surveys since March 2020 show 25% to 50% of teachers and principals are thinking about leaving their jobs within the next year.
So what will it take to make sure Montana's students can count on getting good teachers?
CURTIS SMEBY: You know, there's no magic bullet to this, not only does pay have to be better, the culture of the school, treating people well.
So there's not only one it's many, and we've, I think neglected that for many years.
So we got ketchup to do.
STAN PARKER: Until then, job seekers like Emerald will enter a job market far different than the previous generation of teachers.
EMERALD TINSLEY: Misis Nitz told us that when she was applying for her job, it was very, very competitive.
And she was competing against about 40 other people for one English job at the middle school.
That's a good thing because that means there were lots of people wanting to be teachers.
And now we don't have to fight like that.
STAN PARKER: For "PBS News Weekend" I'm Stan Parker in Havre, Montana.
JOHN YANG: If you've been sneezing and sniffling more than ever this year you're not alone, allergy season started earlier has been more intense all over the country, especially in the north and southeast.
Ali Rogen looks at why it's so early and so bad and what people can do to ease their symptoms.
ALI ROGIN: You don't need to be a doctor or a scientist to know that this allergy season feels particularly pernicious.
All you have to do is step outside.
Every single region of the country is experiencing growth in pollen production with the Pacific Northwest expected to see the largest increase nationally over the coming decades.
To discuss the science behind allergy season and some of the medical remedies available, I'm joined by Theresa Crimmins, she's the Director for the National phonology Network, which tracks and studies seasonal biological events.
And Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist and the Editor-in-Chief of the Publication Allergy Watch.
Thank you so much for joining us both.
Theresa, let's start with you.
What sort of biological activity does your group track in order to draw conclusions about how humans are experiencing allergies?
And what are you seeing this year?
THERESA CRIMMINS, Director, National Phonology Network: So at the National Phenology Network, we keep track actually of seasonal events that occur in plants and animals across the country and over the whole duration of the year.
This particular spring, we have seen really early activity in plants all across the eastern U.S. And that's basically because we've had a very mild winter, followed by a whole lot of warmth early in the year.
And plants respond by leafing out and then starting to bloom in response to that warmth.
And once the plants start flowering, they start releasing pollen.
ALI ROGIN: And Dr. Fineman, what sort of symptoms are you seeing these days in your patients?
And are they worse than what you've seen before?
DR. STANLEY FINEMAN, Edito in Chief, Allergy Watch: Yeah, so the typical symptoms you see in a pollen allergy patient includes nasal congestion, itchy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, and we seen it start earlier this year, as well, because of the higher, higher pollen counts.
Patients are now having more symptoms.
So they might have been able to tolerate it in the past.
But because it's become earlier, and it's lasting longer, there's a phenomena that's called the priming effect, where somebody may have some symptoms early in the season.
And then when it comes, the pollen raises again, they get even stronger symptoms.
So they're even worse symptoms.
So we're seeing a number of patients because of that.
ALI ROGIN: And when we talk about, Theresa, it being warmer earlier in the year, a lot of people's minds go to that's climate change.
So is there a link between climate change human manmade pollution and what you've been tracking when it comes to allergies?
THERESA CRIMMINS: Yeah, there is really.
And it traces back to the biology that we learned in in high school plants, the carbon dioxide in order to photosynthesize, and we are putting a lot more carbon dioxide in the air.
We have been for 150 years now.
And as those CO2 levels have increased in the atmosphere, we're giving plants the ingredients that they need to grow more robustly and to grow more pollen.
And so what we've seen in just recent decades, is a real clear lengthening of the growing season.
And we're projecting that the seasons will continue to get longer and the amount of pollen in the air will right now it looks like it'll continue to increase to.
ALI ROGIN: And sticking with you, Theresa, if you look at the list of where it's worse to live, when you have allergies, it's an interesting list.
The top three, Wichita, Kansas, Dallas, Texas and Scranton, PA, what lend city high on that list?
THERESA CRIMMINS: It has to do with the plants that are the most abundant on the landscape, and whether they happen to be wind pollinated.
And specifically, one of the things that's been brought up recently is the abundance of male plants versus female plants.
The pollen is generated by male plants, it's effectively sperm.
And if we have more male plants being planted on the landscape, we might expect to have more pollen in the air.
And back in the 1950s, there was a push toward planting more male trees in urban areas, because female trees are the ones that are responsible for generating fruit and fruits can be messy and create messes that have to be cleaned up.
And some of those cities seem to have a preponderance of male plants that are generating more pollen than would naturally occur.
ALI ROGIN: And Dr. Fineman, back to you.
Do you think planters need to be paying more attention to the types of plants that are going into urban areas?
DR. STANLEY FINEMAN: Years ago in the New York City area, they tried to eradicate ragweed, but of course it didn't work, especially microscopic pollen could travel 50 miles I mean, it can travel very, very far.
So even if you don't have an oak tree in your yard, your neighbor may have one and you could be allergic to it.
ALI ROGIN: How can people be managing their symptoms more effectively when allergies are really bad?
DR. STANLEY FINEMAN: They really should see an allergist to get allergy tests to find out exactly what's triggering their symptoms because once you know exactly what's triggering, you can monitor it, you know, you can follow it on a regular basis of what's in the air.
Usually when they do the allergy skin test, then you get an allergy management plan from the allergist.
And that can involve medications that could even involve allergy immunotherapy, which is allergy shots, or sublingual drops to help desensitize the patient, so they no longer have as much of a dramatic symptom effect when they're exposed to that high pollen count.
THERESA CRIMMINS: I'd love to follow up on what Dr. Fineman said.
If you can identify what your sensitivity is, then you can track what is in the air and when it is.
And my network, that's what we do.
And we run a program that invites folks of all ages and backgrounds to track exactly what they're seeing happening seasonally.
And so that program, Nature's Notebook is a perfect opportunity for tracking when different plants are in flower in your area.
And you can directly then impact your own health in that way.
ALI ROGIN: A last question to both of you, what if anything can be done to reverse this trend of allergy seasons seemingly getting longer and more intense every year?
THERESA CRIMMINS: If we can curb emissions, that would definitely slow down the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the air and thereby kind of bend that curve in terms of the CO2 that we're feeding to the plants that is enabling them to continue to grow larger and more robustly and generating more pollen.
DR. STANLEY FINEMAN: We know that patients who are exposed to higher auto emission rates and have allergies have more severe symptoms.
So those children who live near highways have usually more severe symptoms of their asthma and of whatever allergy problem that they have, usually respiratory.
ALI ROGIN: Theresa Crimmins with the National Phonology Network, and Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist and the Editor in Chief of Allergy Watch, thank you so much for your time.
THERESA CRIMMINS: Thank you.
DR. STANLEY FINEMAN: Thank you.
JOHN YANG: More than 3 million children in the United States have some form of disability.
In recent years, alternative therapies have become increasingly popular to help them with communication, socialization and just to have fun.
Austin PBS brings us the story of one program that's using horse therapy to help people with disabilities, but is struggling to expand its footprint.
STEPHANIE POWELL, H.E.L.P.
Executive Director: And the need for this type of program doesn't go away.
But we need the space to do it.
Most of my day is spent in the office.
And I'm in the middle of reports and bills and emails and all those sorts of things.
I can just get up and open my door and walk outside and pedal horse.
All right, come on baby.
I'm Stephanie Powell, Executive Director here at H.E.L.P.. H.E.L.P.
stands for Horse Empowered Learning Program.
We will partner with people with certain disabilities with therapeutic riding.
Keep him straight, use your right leg.
So for example, somebody with let's say cerebral palsy, that's going to work on and challenge their core, but not make them feel so unstable that they're going to fall.
And it teaches all sorts of life skills.
We learn boundaries.
We learn how to self-advocate.
We learn how to work through emotions, how to express them in safe and efficient ways.
That was much better, much more control.
The need is huge.
I have emails and phone calls just about every day from people seeking out this program.
And we want to continue.
We want to grow, but we can't do it without the space.
We are very much limited by the space that's available.
But there's not a lot of options.
Ideally, I believe they say about half an acre to an acre per horse.
The minimum would be 10 acres just for our program.
We're sharing an eight-acre facility right now.
There's no opportunity for them to expand this necessarily right before we came -- neighborhood built right up along the fence line.
And then right behind us the school just was built.
This is our home.
This is HELP's home and we want to stay here.
Okay, do you want to pick a game?
Okay, what game do you want to play?
I'll be in the middle of the day.
And I'm working on reports on whatever -- it's time for lesson.
You see the smile of that rider who was able to trap for the first time on their own or just as simple as sat up for 30 seconds it changes everything.
The challenge is being able to grow but when you see that happen, it's everything.
Everything else goes away.
And so I don't cry.
It pushes you through.
Good, there you go, move with your hand.
JOHN YANG: And that is "PBS News Weekend" for this Saturday.
I'm John Yang.
For all of my colleagues, thanks for joining us.
See you tomorrow.