By Sascha Murillo, Community Organizer – Health Justice Program
Today, voters will head to the polls to elect a new mayor of New York City. But what kind of mayor do New Yorkers want? What kind of mayor does this city need? In a city where the health care landscape is rapidly transforming, we need a mayor who will protect and strengthen our safety-net and prioritize improving health care access for low-income communities, people of color, and immigrants. We need a mayor who will work with residents, health advocates, and labor groups to design a health system that provides high-quality, comprehensive services and is responsive to community needs. We need a mayor who will fight for health justice.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will bring thousands of New Yorkers out of the shadows of the uninsured. However, the current trend of hospital and clinic closures and service cutbacks in NYC is endangering low-income populations whose access to care is already limited due to geography, insurance type, and immigration status. In August of this year, the City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) suspended Labor and Delivery and other important maternity services at North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH), which in 2012 alone was responsible for delivering 1,400 babies in this low-income immigrant community. Similarly, the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is planning to reduce hours for nine STD clinics and close down two immunization clinics in Queens and the Bronx by the end of this year.
The next mayor will have the power to reverse the current trend of cutbacks in city health services. Just as important, however, will be the next mayor’s ability to influence decisions at the state level. As the New York health insurance marketplace seeks to enroll millions into insurance coverage, it will be beneficial for these marginalized communities to have a mayor who will advocate on their behalf—for example, by promoting that the insurance marketplace be accessible to the nearly 400,000 eligible New Yorkers who are limited English proficient. And in Brooklyn, where several safety-net hospitals are either slated to close or on the brink of closure, our next mayor should work to save and redesign the health care system by bringing the voices of community members and health professionals to the state Department of Health (DOH), ensuring that Brooklyn’s safety-net and primary care services are both financially secure and inclusive of the diverse health needs of a medically underserved population.
Everyone has the right to a healthy life. We need a mayor who works to improve public health: not only by fixing our health system, but by ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to healthy food, students have access to physical education, and issues like race and ethnicity, insurance type, citizenship status, and geographical proximity to health centers don’t determine a person’s quality of or access to care. We hope the next mayor will take this message to heart and work to preserve and promote health—not just for a lucky few, but for all New Yorkers. You can learn more about the NYC mayoral candidates here. Follow election updates and results here.