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Cures for inequality

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
Photo courtesy of the Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

It’s no surprise that a number of candidates running to replace Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City have made health care reform a key campaign issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health crisis, as de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo and others have pointed out, exposed long-festering inequalities across the city, particularly the lack of quality health care services available in low-income areas and communities of color.
This disparity led to deadly consequences during the pandemic — with Black New Yorkers dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of white New Yorkers, and Latinx New Yorkers succumbing to the virus at 1.5 times the rate of whites. And if we do nothing to close that disparity in the wake of this pandemic, then it will be the most ignominious, shameful of failures by our leaders. 
Over the past week, two mayoral candidates have come out with their plans to cure some of the harmful inequality in our midst.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s plan seeks to consolidate the city’s health commissioner and the head of the NYC Health + Hospitals public health care system into one office known as the chief health officer. It also seeks to greatly expand available health care services across the city, and recruit teams of medical staff who will be ready to address future pandemics.
Meanwhile, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley offered a more issue-specific plan to address another terrible, shameful inequality in New York: maternal mortality. New York City has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country — and again, Black and Latino mothers disproportionately suffer more post-childbirth deaths.
Wiley wants to expand prenatal care for expecting moms and midwife services to help eliminate the complications of pregnancy and save young mothers’ lives. 
The costs of these reforms will undoubtedly be substantial, and some might well ask if the city is fit to truly address and resolve our health inequalities. The answer, however, is that the existence of the inequalities themselves are evidence that the status quo and the free market have failed New Yorkers — and now government must step up.
It will take years, it will cost millions in taxpayer dollars, but it must be done. Nothing is more important than your health — and our next mayor, whoever it is, must ensure that every New Yorker gets to live their best, healthy life, regardless of their background.

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