Hundreds of people line up at a food pantry on New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst. Photo: Arthur De Gaeta/Brooklyn Eagle
The coronavirus pandemic is having long-range effects on the health of many Brooklyn and New York City residents, well beyond the disease itself.
These effects are falling disproportionately on the borough’s low-income and immigrant communities, especially since 42 percent of low-income Brooklynites have been laid off and 61 percent are not getting any type of COVID-related care.
These are some of the findings of a recent report by Public Health Solutions.
PHS is a 63-year-old organization that provides health-related services to many communities in need, such as Flatbush, Crown Heights, Fort Greene and Bed-Stuy, according to Lisa David, its president and CEO. Among the issues it focuses on are nutrition, maternal and child health, health insurance, SNAP (food stamps) enrollment, sexual health and tobacco use.
How do all these statistics tie into the pandemic?
Low-income people, David says, are more likely to cancel preventive care appointments where they could be getting COVID tests. “The barriers are higher to low-income people,” she said.
Many still have a fear of taking public transportation. In addition, many rely on hospital clinics for their health care. The wait times at these clinics tend to be fairly long, and patients sometimes have to travel long distances to get to the clinics. In some cases, this discourages them from making appointments in the first place, except in acute situations.
The same factor also applies to pre-natal care. Low-income New Yorkers, David says, are seven times more likely than people making $100,000 or more not to get pre-natal care.
In Brooklyn, she added, there’s a “massive issue involving access to food.” Many low-income Brooklynites receive food from food pantries — recent statistics from the Food Bank for New York City say Brooklyn has 152 food pantries and 34 soup kitchens listed. The pantries are not always able to meet the demand, and sometimes have to turn people away.
In addition, David says, “when you’re going to a food pantry, your time is not your own.” More often than not, recipients have to wait for a long time to receive food. This may make it more difficult to fit in other necessities — such as medical appointments.
Finally, the school system itself can contribute to the possibility of being exposed to coronavirus. Of those low-income people who work, David says, a greater percentage go to a workplace where they need to be physically present than middle- and upper-income Brooklynites and other New Yorkers, many of whom work from home via computer.
Therefore, low-income Brooklynites are more likely to send their children to “in-person” school, where the risk of contracting COVID is greater than it is for kids who attend school virtually.
In particular, here are some of the statistics in Public Health Solutions’ report that relate specifically to Brooklyn:
- Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of Brooklyn respondents anticipate needing SNAP over the next several months, compared with 19 percent of all New York City respondents.
- Eighteen percent of Brooklyn respondents report being most concerned about getting enough food for themselves and their families during the next month.
- Among Brooklyn respondents who either lost health insurance or didn’t have insurance before the coronavirus outbreak began in NYC in March and still don’t, 42 percent are unsure that they can get health insurance in the next 30 days.
- A quarter of Brooklyn respondents report sending their child to school at least once per week because they work and can’t afford childcare, compared with 15 percent of all respondents.
“In the last few days,” says David, “the number of [coronavirus] cases has been growing and we may be coming in to a third wave. Those challenges exacerbate even bigger health disparities and social inequities. We’re affecting a generation of low-income kids.”