Our country suffered a public health crisis with massive health inequities before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. But why haven’t we got better and, why are communities still suffering? What do we need as voters, citizens, or simply human beings to better our public health? Do we need to increase funding within public health spaces? Do we need to wipe out government and replace it with new people or with a new system? What do we need? What we do need is more government transparency, especially at the local level.
A new and upcoming city with new commercial development generating more luxury housing and businesses is suffering right now. Worcester, Massachusetts, is currently going through a public health crisis that has caused detrimental effects on many families. Worcester, similar to other cities, is finding the funding for their new property development but not for public health benefits. The Worcester government and the community are working together to provide better public health but, there is a lag with government transparency and swiftness.
During the weekly city council meeting on (meeting date October 19, 2021) many concerned members of the community spoke on the extremely slow but steady increase in dismantling the public health inequities. One community member spoke on the lack of funding school bus drivers received during the pandemic for putting their health on the line. School bus drivers throughout the pandemic were the source of Worcester just as much as other educators and health care workers these people took the initiative and did the work and made sure Worcester natives got around easily and made sure families food and school supplies were delivered. This community member urged the city to provide more funding to these bus drivers for doing all the continue and continuing their jobs during this scary time. Many members of the community are in full support of the funding increase to the bus drivers.
Worcester government however may not be as effective as people want them to but Worcester health organizations are doing the work as swiftly as they can. Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), spoke on what is going on in Worcester regarding any and all health inequities. Worcester is moving forward with combating the public health crisis by first combating food inequities. CHIP and Worcester Division of Public Health’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Plan (REACH) are working with Rainbow Child Development Center on providing healthy organic nutrients to children who otherwise could not get them. The City of Worcester provides the funding for these folks but the community needs more. These two programs are pushing for better food supply and accessibility and easy urban walk commuting through Worcester.
Speaking on urban street community, one member of the community is advocating for the government to partner with other organizations like CHIP, REACH, and the Department of Public Health (DPH) on street development. Community members feel that this partnership will provide government transparency and educate those in government on the public health crisis. Residents no longer want conversations on public health to be a “departmental thing” but more a community thing. This same member spoke on the outcomes of poor street design for low-income minorities where they are more likely to suffer at the hands of bad driving on these poorly designed streets.
Now, this might be contradicting but many members are happy with the work that has been made regarding public health in Worcester however government is still not doing enough and feel the city is putting all their focus on making Worcester look pretty. Taking a look into the local newspaper, Telegram & Gazette, a journalist added their commentary on the October 19th council meeting with great concern.
According to the article, CHIP has a 5-year plan that should sharpen its focus a little more on racism and discrimination by looking into what the city has planned with police reform. Police reform is a public health issue but since there is no transparency the community feels targeted. Worcester government wants to increase funding for policing by adding another police division to investigate issues within the department but one community member discusses that this plan is another way to dance around the issue and waste of money.
The city has put in more work in developing Worcester into a great city but at who’s expense ?. Worcester has increased new housing developments but the community does not benefit from this. During the city council meeting, another community member spoke on the housing boom in Worcester that however many people are not living in them due to high rent. Another issue going on in the city that affects public health is the inaccessibility of obtaining affordable housing. This community proposed that there should be a housing summit to increase transparency on what’s going on with housing in Worcester.
Many concerned citizens express the lack of local government transparency and feel that change is moving slow. The city of Worcester has done the work of acknowledging the issue but again it’s moving slow. Communities across the nation beg for a transparent government that involves the people in on what is happening within their homes. Things change or not change and people are confused why. It’s frustrating to know that everyone cannot benefit from the growth of a community.