Writer: Paloma Delgado
I’m not good with words. I find myself to be an awkward writer when it comes to non academic writing, so I'm gonna write this as if I were telling a story. Enjoy.
During my junior year of high school I was required to conduct field research for one of my International Baccalaureate (IB) assignments. We were to pick a topic related to global politics, and write about it using our own findings. Simple. I chose to focus on public health, particularly health disparities among different groups within the United States.
My teacher gave me a couple of websites to some Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) related to public health within the NYC area. I emailed all of them, but only received a response from a group called Grameen Vidasana. This group is an amazing faction of Grameen America (a non profit dedicated to microfinancing women in the global south for their own businesses or daily lives), which provided health care services to undocumented women in Jackson Heights, Queens. They would have mental health services, free provision of life saving, access to extremely expensive medications (such as insulin and HIV treatments), as well as general health services and checkups.
I went to Grameen Vidasana to conduct interviews of the staff, doctors, and of course, the women they served. The relationships I formed with these women and the stories they told me will forever stick with me. Out of respect for their privacy I won't disclose their names, and for sake of not glamorizing their trauma, I will refrain from divulging the details of their crossings. But I will say they are the bravest souls I have ever encountered.
Most of them are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, gun violence, acid attacks, and more. I interviewed them for a couple of months in a row, allowing me to hear the stories and pasts of most of the members. Having them trust me enough to relay their trauma was something I will always appreciate, as it created a truly deep bond between us. Precisely because of that friendship, it was dishearteningly sad when Diana, the head doctor, called me this past February to let me know Grameen was closing down.
They lacked proper funding and couldn’t keep providing these women with any more services or medications. My heart genuinely ached thinking about how little these women deserved for this to happen. Some of them would receive insulin from Grameen as they couldn't afford it out of pocket. Diabetics cannot go without insulin. These women were stripped of their safety net and life line, and there was nothing we could do.
Jackson Heights, New York has the lowest rate of insured adults in the United States. Their rate of uninsurance comes at around 28%, meaning that nearly a quarter of all residents lack consistent and reliable access to the most basic of health services.
Jackson heights had the highest rate of infection during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the entire world. 195 countries couldn’t beat this 20 block area in New York City.
The fact that zip code determines your life expectancy in this country is saddening. Zip code. By determining health by someone's zip code, you are stripping away their right to a healthy life. Letting people die rather than reducing profit margins is the reverse of what it should be. No other “developed” country in the world denies its citizens medical care.The right to health care is not one that should be politicized, it should be seen as a basic human right. The right to medical care is inextricably linked to the right to live. This has to change.