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Dr. Oxiris Barbot, NYC Commissioner of Health, and FPHNYC’s Board Chair, shares some thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dear Friends of FPHNYC,

Though COVID-19 is a novel virus, its patterns of devastation are all too familiar. As race and ethnicity data in relation to the virus continue to be made available, we are seeing that Black and Latino communities across this country are disproportionately impacted.

This stark contrast in outcomes is not unexpected. Despite the pioneering work we have taken on to promote health equity, and despite our best efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we are yet again seeing how health threats are exacerbated by underlying inequities and existing health disparities affecting neighborhoods in our beloved city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fissures in our society and wreaked havoc on those who have been deliberately left to fall through the cracks caused by generations of structural racism. And it is those same communities that we are committed to serving the most. At the Health Department, we are doing all we can to mitigate the pandemic’s repercussions on our hardest-hit communities and to interrupt the equally threatening long-term consequences.

We launched an Equity Taskforce as part of our emergency response. The taskforce is convening subject matter experts from across our Incident Command System to identify, analyze, and address equity considerations in this pandemic. We are also actively implementing an Equity Action Plan that allows us to tailor and focus our messaging and engagement with community and clinical partners in neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19. In doing so, we will make sure that these communities receive the information, resources, and support they need.

As our friends from Race Forward have said, “Structural racism is a co-morbidity.” While every corner of our city is experiencing the burden of this virus, the burdens of Black and Latinx New Yorkers are compounded by social and economic forces that long preceded it. In addition to contending with this virus, we must also push back against decades of divestment, neglect, abuse, and oppression. This is our mission; we cannot be deterred. If there was ever a time to help our fellow New Yorkers and the rest of the world better understand the terrible consequences of social inequity, it’s now – when we are all living the truth that we are only as healthy and secure as our least healthy and most under-resourced community.

I am incredibly humbled to serve with my Health Department and FPHNYC family, some of whom we have lost to this global tragedy. I can think of no nobler way to honor their memories than to remain steadfast to our core values and to lead with equity.

Stay safe,

Dr. Oxiris Barbot

If you’re interested in learning  more about our equity work, please join our next Public Health Talk on May 6th and consider supporting FPHNYC by making a donation.