President’s Letter: Health Inequities & COVID-19

Arlington Free Clinic patients – all uninsured and low-income, nearly three quarters of whom are Hispanic – were among the first to lose their jobs when the virus hit. Very few have benefited from federal government support.

Those who remain employed are primarily working in frontline service roles which put them at increased risk of exposure for themselves and their families. Some of our patients were in the middle of treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses; most have chronic health conditions which place them at great risk of poor outcomes should they become infected; all were already struggling with food, rent, and other basic needs. Local data mirrors national trends: marginalized community pockets are being disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.

While AFC’s mission is to provide free, high-quality healthcare to those most in need, we also recognize that systemic factors such as access to food, housing, and safety create inequities that dramatically impact individuals’ health and well-being.

To mitigate some of the barriers that our patients face, AFC has been looking “beyond the exam room” to leverage our community connections to secure more equitable conditions for those struggling to put food on the table when their hours were cut at work; manage telehealth appointments without internet connectivity; or obtain COVID-19 testing at drive-through sites when they don’t own a car. Read more about the results our partnerships have yielded here.

As our community starts to reopen and we begin to resume our “normal” lives, we must not forget that our patients are experiencing an entirely different reality. Please join us as we support our neighbors who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

—Nancy White