Promoting Health Equity Through PR
By Paula Chirinos
Usually when I tell people that I grew up in Westchester County, there is an automatic assumption that I had a privileged upbringing, since the northern New York City suburbs are consistently ranked among the wealthiest communities in the country.
This perception is often perpetuated by mainstream media, such as popular TV shows and real estate advertisements, but the true makeup of this region is far more complex. My upbringing was not lavish, compared to the rich neighboring towns I grew up next to. Once I moved to Long Island to attend Hofstra University as a student, I realized that this is a larger theme which impacts almost all suburbs surrounding New York City. Through my work as the Account Executive for the Swing Agency’s client, the Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge, and conversations with public health professionals, I’ve learned about the concept of health equity, but more importantly, how there is a large disparity between the access to healthcare that is given to underserved (and often ethnic) communities versus neighboring predominantly white communities.
This situation isn't new to me since my family immigrated to New York from Peru about 19 years ago and had to assimilate ourselves to a new environment with no financial resources or government assistance, given our status. A significant number of people I grew up with couldn’t access higher education for various reasons such as financial strain, teen pregnancy, incarceration, or death at a young age. Additionally, all of the young people who witnessed these cases were black and Latino.
Recently the New York Times reported that the coronavirus is killing black and Latino people at twice the rate that it is killing white people in New York City. According to Dr. Martine Hackett, Co-Chair of the steering committee for the New York Healthcare Challenge and Director of Public Health programs at Hofstra University, this rate is 2.5 in Nassau County alone.
My parents only had the choice of taking physically-demanding jobs when we first moved to the United States, such as construction, house cleaning, babysitting, cooking and gardening. There were many times where they would come home with severe injuries, cuts and muscle pain that could not be treated since they aren’t eligible to receive health insurance coverage. There was also a constant fear among them to visit hospitals or government offices due to the political language and climate surrounding immigrants. This is an issue that many immigrant families face.
How the Healthcare Challenge is Tackling Health Inequity
My personal background and passion for advocacy, particularly for immigrant populations, is only one of the factors that led me to really appreciate the work that I am doing with our client, the The Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge. This initiative focuses on providing resources for innovators and entrepreneurs who want to develop market-based solutions to health problems in underserved communities. All of the participants recognize that there are underlying social factors which contribute to these issues and through guidance offered by a steering committee consisting of public health experts, mentors and local business owners, they build a community of changemakers who tackle different issues.
I have had the pleasure of meeting different participants who have shared their inspiring stories, including a student who created a mobile app to build a nurturing community among recovering addicts and healthcare workers going through trauma due to COVID, and a businesswoman who transformed her battle against cancer into a mission for the personalization of health.
Through the Swing Agency, I have also been able to lead brainstorm and execution of all integrated marketing strategies that we implemented for our client, such as social media management, pitching, building a media list, designing a paid advertising campaign, and creating spotlight articles highlighting the careers of previous participants of the Healthcare Challenge. Getting to meet regularly with our client was also a fun experience since we developed so many ideas and shared a lot of positive energy during each call (loved working with you Kenia!).
Working with the Healthcare Challenge team has been eye-opening and impactful for me and my hope is that in the coming years, the community I grew up in, and the communities that the Healthcare Challenge reaches, will get one step closer to achieving health equity.