NYC launches new public health initiatives to battle COVID-19 inequities


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Rachel Dalloo

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sept. 29 the launch of the NYC Public Health Corps, a new initiative in a city-wide effort to diversify the “public health workforce, strengthen community health infrastructure and promote health equity for the communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release.

“COVID-19 hit our most vulnerable communities the hardest,”  de Blasio said.

“As we recover and move forward as a city, we’re going to ensure all New Yorkers have access to health care, especially in the neighborhoods most impacted by this crisis. Today is a monumental step towards universal health care in New York City,” he added.

The Public Health Corps’ initial goal is to tackle a broad range of public health needs across the city, from helping residents get vaccinated against COVID-19 to informing the general public about common health conditions like diabetes and depression.

The initiative’s workforce will have employees from NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to the press release.

“The Public Health Corps is a step towards repair and healing, grounded in principles of health equity, for New Yorkers most-impacted by COVID-19,” Dr. Michelle Morse, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Office, said. “Working hand-in-hand with communities, we will build a stronger, healthier city together.”

$235 million, including $35 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over two years, will be allocated to the Public Health Corps’ initiatives.

These key initiatives will be carried out by approximately 500 city employees by December, spread out across 20 different “priority” neighborhoods.

New York City also announced the creation of the Pandemic Response Institute, launched and operated by Columbia University. The new institute will receive $20 million from New York City’s capital funding to ensure the five boroughs are prepared to address future health emergencies in a “more effective and equitable manner,” according to NBC New York.

The City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy is among the several partners that will be involved in the new institute.

“Our school’s primary commitment to health equity and social justice, coupled with existing strengths in health communication, systems modeling, and community outreach will help to shape and support this initiative to advance a new vision for the health of all New Yorkers,” Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean of CUNY SPH, said according to NBC New York.

The new institute will allocate its resources into several initiatives, such as the development of technology to facilitate real time data collection and address systemic racial inequities and related problems with health infrastructure.

“The Pandemic Response Institute, operated by Columbia University with key partner CUNY SPH, will play a critical role in preparing for future pandemics, and promoting equity in public health,” de Blasio said.

“Born out of New York’s quick action during the early days of the pandemic, this institute will put our hardest learned lessons to work so that when the next public health crisis emerges, New York City will not only be prepared, we will be ready to lead these global fights.”