The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a starkly unequal toll on New Yorkers of color – both in terms of the virus itself and the accompanying social and economic impacts of the pandemic. These are not separate issues. They stem from the structural racism embedded in American society. While our work begins by establishing a statistical baseline for how the virus’s unequal toll played out in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, any analysis of these disparities that looks solely at hospitalizations and deaths misses a tremendous piece of this tragic and preventable story. Minority health disparities have always existed in the United States. But COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated these disparities in ways policymakers cannot ignore; doing so would mean accepting inequity with life and death consequences.
The COVID-19 pandemic also exposed gaps in existing knowledge about the causes of these inequities and, more important, how to end them. We need, for example, more and better data about the toll of the virus in New York’s Indigenous communities and Indigenous communities more generally. Additionally, our work suggests important differences exist in the way different minority groups experience the progression of the disease.More work is needed to fully explore those differences and their causes, particularly as they relate to additional minority communities in New York. This project has been an important initial step toward filling some of these gaps and identifying interventions that, by necessity, must be informed by and rooted in community experiences and insight.
The University at Albany began this project at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo with extreme urgency at the height of the most serious public health emergency New York has faced in a century. That urgency led to the creation of a new health equity research ecosystem at UAlbany that will long outlast this project and continue to produce new knowledge, insights, and recommendations to combat future public health threats we have yet to even imagine. The trauma inflicted on New Yorkers by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be undone. But university researchers and government policymakers should jointly pledge to do everything in their power not to allow the lessons learned from COVID-19’s unequal path across New York to go unheeded.
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Harrison, Teresa; Pardo, Theresa; Carleo-Evangelist, Jordan; and Warner, Lynn. 6-24-2021. "Minority Health Disparities in a 21st-century Pandemic: A Comprehensive Report of Project Research Focused on New York" Understanding and eliminating minority health disparities in a 21st-century pandemic: A White Paper Collection. University at Albany, SUNY: Scholars Archive.