The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the inequities in our healthcare system. We need to begin by making our communities healthier, now.
We are experiencing a once in a lifetime health pandemic paired with the toxicity of institutional racism in the United States. These two problems are connected, and we see higher rates of hospitalization and deaths among communities of color in the Bronx stemming from historic environmental injustices. We need to recover from this pandemic and get healthier together. That means a real, institutional change in the direction of preventative care.
Reduce disproportionate impacts of health outcomes ranging from COVID to maternal health.
Support the New York Health Care Act.
Address the root causes of illness including combating heat vulnerability and environmental injustices.
Expanding maternal resources to women and families while combating implicit bias is going to reduce disproportionate maternal mortality. Some ways the Council can work on this issue is through prioritizing funding for public hospitals and requiring uniform patient care standards. Patients should not be treated differently across hospitals. Last, I know from my data career that data is like sunlight: transparency helps produce a better outcome, and in this case the outcome is health. Supporting systems and requirements for transparency around Hospital performance is important.
Supporting the New York Health Care Act. When our residents need or want to see a doctor, they shouldn’t be worried about how they are going to afford it. We have a responsibility to expand access and coverage; the NY Health Care Act fulfills that responsibility. The lack of well-funded hospitals servicing lower-income neighborhoods is a direct link to this disparity. Supporting the New York Health Care Act will expand coverage and reduce complications of the current system while saving New Yorkers $11 billion.
It’s not enough to support public healthcare if there are no physical locations for our residents to go to. We also need to expand community outreach and create more neighborhood clinics staffed with qualified professionals. It also means supporting community practices like midwifery and increasing access to pre and post-natal care. These are just a few things we need to do to ensure our communities are resilient in the face of public health crises.
Reversing course on preventable death by reducing local air pollution, reducing the heat island effect, investing in green space, updating building codes, and reducing air pollution. Healthcare, if fact, comes back to environmental justice. The heat island effect kills people every summer, with 50% of preventable heat-related deaths in the Black community.
In 1918, communities living near coal-burning power plants had increased mortality rates during the flu pandemic, similar to what we’ve seen during COVID.
Science has known for 100 years that poor air quality leads to higher death rates in poor-air-quality-communities. Yet we’ve continued to allow highways to pass through neighborhoods. We’ve continued to build bus depots in poor communities and run peaker-plants. Health outcomes will only improve when air quality is improved. Air quality has improved in NYC, with levels of PM 2.5 dropping from 18 mcg per cubic meter to 10 mcg per cubic meter from 2001 to 2018. This shows steps in the right direction. But it remains true that neighborhoods with high poverty rates have levels of PM 2.5 that are 50% higher than neighborhoods with low poverty rates. Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) are particles smaller than red blood cells that find their way into our lungs and cause or worsen health defects like asthma.