On July 29th, the #Not62 Steering Committee, of which Bronx Health REACH and the Institute for Family Health are founding members, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. hosted, “A Discussion of Health Disparities and COVID-19 in the Bronx.” This virtual panel discussion featured former NYC Department of Health and Mental Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot; Dr. Jane Bedell who was the Medical Director of The Bronx Neighborhood Health Action Center and the Assistant Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Dr. Lessie Branch from Metropolitan College and Dr. Denise Nunez from SOMOS Community Care Network.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. was the moderator of the event, introducing panelists and asking questions about the work being done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Oxiris Barbot spoke briefly about a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Bronx. It was set up in Tremont where NYCDOHMH knew that not many people were getting tested, and the ones that were getting tested were testing positive for COVID-19. They were hoping to use this data in other parts of the Bronx so more people could be tested.
Dr. Bedell's presentation, "Building a Healthier Bronx," began with data about the Bronx: population, breakdown of age, race, number of parks, libraries, etc. "The policies and practices of yesterday are determining the health outcomes of today. COVID-19 is a case study of how past practices and current inequities converge in an emergency. The Bronx has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths." To improve the health of Bronx residents Dr. Bedell advised that we all get out and vote and complete the 2020 Census so the Bronx gets more federal money to support much needed services.
Dr. Lessie Branch spoke about defining systemic racism and how it makes people sick. She highlighted how COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities in the Bronx. "COVID-19 has made policy violence leveled against Black and Brown communities visible in the same way that smart phone cameras and police body cameras have made the disproportionate police violence against Black and Brown communities visible." Dr. Branch also noted the importance of everyone completing the census. "For every individual that is uncounted in the census, New York will lose $2,687 in federally funded programs."
Dr. Denise Nunez is a pediatrician for the SOMOS Community Care Network in the Bronx. She spoke about the importance of educating younger children to take control of your health. "We teach the younger children how to eat healthy. And by doing that, the children are also educating their families about the importance of having regular wellness visits with a doctor."
Panelists fielded questions for the remainder of the webinar and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. wrapped up the webinar by advising everyone to remain vigilant in preventing the spread of COVID-19. "Practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer, wash your hands, and be sure to wear your mask anytime you leave your house. We do not want a second wave of COVID-19."
Click here to view "A Discussion of Health Disparities and COVID-19 in the Bronx.