It has been a year like no other, but we at 1,000 Days believe hope is on the horizon. In the United States, mask-wearing is becoming the norm and COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have begun among health care workers and at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Congress passed an urgently-needed coronavirus relief package, and the incoming Administration will seek further investments in our nation’s families in the new year. We have hope.
Yet, families across America continue to struggle – and some are harder hit than others.
This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new resource about racial and ethnic health disparities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resource examines how underlying health and social inequities put many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick, having more severe illness, and dying from COVID-19. Social determinants of health, which are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes – as well as the chronic stress that comes from racism – contribute to these disparities. Additionally, the CDC resource explains how COVID-19 mitigation strategies, such as stay-home orders and business closures, can have unintended consequences that put some populations at risk. Minority groups are experiencing higher rates of job loss, food insecurity, housing instability, and disruptions in preventive healthcare services.
The pandemic has been especially difficult for women, including those in the 1,000-day window. In November, the CDC confirmed that pregnant women are at increased risk of developing serious illness or dying as a result of COVID-19 – and research in Philadelphia shows that Black and Hispanic pregnant women are five times as likely as white and Asian women to have been exposed to the virus. Working women are also bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis. It’s a perfect storm: on the one hand, the crisis has affected industries that employ more women than men (restaurants and other retail establishments, hospitality, and health care), and on the other hand, shuttered daycares and schools make it difficult to keep working. In fact, of the 1.1 million people who dropped out of the labor force in September, 80% were women. Women are on the frontlines of the pandemic, and too many are not receiving the support they need to thrive.
This is why 1,000 Days has been fighting – and will continue to fight – for policies and programs that allow all women, children, and families to be healthy and thrive. This includes access to paid leave provisions to care for themselves and their loved ones as the number of coronavirus cases continues to spike. Families must also have access to quality and affordable healthcare and the support of nutrition programs like WIC and SNAP.
The CDC states: “To stop the spread of COVID-19, we need to ensure resources are equitably available for everyone to maintain physical and mental health.” We stand ready with our community to fight for the opportunities that provide all people a chance to live a healthy life and especially build toward a more equitable society in which every family can have a safe and healthy first 1,000 days and beyond.