One of the most topical conversations coming out of the coronavirus pandemic is how a public health crisis lifted the veil off inequities suffered by the poorest Americans and, overwhelmingly, in Brown and Black communities.
The New York City Department of Health reported in the first year of the pandemic, Latinx and Black New Yorkers were up to two times more likely than white New Yorkers to report difficulty in paying for housing and utility bills, and unable to afford public transportation and groceries. Black New Yorkers (51% ) were more likely than white New Yorkers (43%) to report job loss or reduced working hours during the pandemic.
But the coronavirus pandemic exposed another lens through which to see poverty, and that is in healthcare. The pandemic laid bare those inequities—again, with people of color disproportionately affected by the triumvirate of comorbidities, malnutrition and food insecurity.
Such inequalities have existed for years, but in an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said “the virus “is pulling a thread that is showing … the very different conditions in which we live because of social structures that are inequitable, both within the United States and between countries. By pulling the thread, it’s revealing patterns that have long been known in public health.”
It’s something The Floating Hospital has known since its beginnings in 1866, when it was founded to provide healthcare and relief to New York City’s most disadvantaged families. At the time, that was the diverse wave of immigrants who needed healthcare and more—a bath, a healthy meal and education on food sanitation and nutrition. Those issues remain, 156 years later says Floating Hospital president Sean Granahan.