Co-authored by Bryony Winn and Beckie Brooks
Wow. What a moment for the world. This is a discombobulating time for all of us, and it’s totally okay to feel it. We do.
While there a multitude of excellent sources for medical information on covid-19 (On Twitter, we highly recommend following @aslavitt, @Ashishkjha, @farzad_MD, @RahulRajkumar11), many non-medical people – like us – are wondering “other than stay at home and wash our hands, what can we do”?
As employees at Blue Cross NC, we have often said that “affordability is the biggest public health crisis of our time.” Clearly, in this moment, it is not. But what Covid-19 has done is to highlight even further the affordability and other social crises of health that our communities face. Social factors (commonly referred to as Drivers of Health or SDOH) are responsible for 70% of our health outcomes.
Here are a handful of those … and some actions to consider (and many that we are taking personally) to contribute to “health” during this pandemic.
Providing access to healthy food
Food insecurity is a primary threat to health, even during the best of times. More than 1.6 million North Carolinians are food insecure, and almost 1 in 4 children in our state face hunger on a regular basis. Shuttering businesses and school cancellations – while medically appropriate – are bound to cause those already serious numbers to skyrocket.
Some things we can do:
1. Continue to donate to food banks, they need it more than ever. Amplify your donation now with a match offer at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
3. Shop for or order grocery delivery for vulnerable neighbors and loved ones.
Combating loneliness and social isolation
We are not fans of the term “social distancing.” What people really mean by that is “physical distancing.” Socially, people need to feel even more connected in a time of crisis. This is especially true for older people – who often suffer from loneliness even on good days. In North Carolina, 26.8% of people 65 and older live alone and are vulnerable to social isolation; of those, more than 21% are part of a racial or ethnic minority population. All of us have the ability to make someone feel less alone.
Some things we can do:
4. Have kids? Maybe they can draw pictures or write a cute letter to their grannies, grandpas, grandfriends. Consider sending the same thing to residents at senior centers too!
5. Text, call, and video chat with your loved ones. We haven’t heard anything yet about social media distancing. ?. Play online games together. Words with Friends, anyone?!
6.Have “dinner” with another person/ family/ couple via face time (A post-bedtime glass of wine/cup of tea with a friend perhaps?!)
Supporting the financial security of our communities
Almost 3.8 million North Carolinians are employed by small businesses. Our economy is taking a serious knock and the more we physically distance ourselves, the harder hit employment is going to be. This is especially true for small businesses like bars and restaurants, which are being ordered to close. Life is changing for millions of people who are feeling the stress of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from.
For those of us who are blessed enough to have stable employment, or access to resources, during this time, some things to consider:
7. Tip more – for food deliveries, for online shopping, for any services you receive.
8. Buy gift cards for your local small businesses – treat yourself to a meal out, a beauty treatment in 3 months-time ?. Send flowers to someone now through a local florist; send someone a delivery dinner.
9. If you have a house cleaner or child care provider or regular fitness/ art/ other classes – continue to pay them, even if they (or you) are not there!
Caring for our mental health
Blue Cross NC estimates that 1 in 5 of our members suffers from a behavioral health condition (that’s mental health or substance use disorders). Times like these can cause or exacerbate anxiety and have a detrimental effect on our mental health.
Some things we can do:
10. Be kind to others– give everyone the benefit of the doubt. At home. With your family. At work. Online.
11. Exercise! Join an online workout group; go for a walk or ride around the block.
12. Take time to spend with your family; or to read; or to start the hobby you always meant to. Listen to music and dance if you are so inclined! Be kind to yourself. Perfection is not the aim here. Your family, friends and peers need you to be strong.
Overall, we’re not trying to save the world here. However, we firmly believe individual actions can make a real difference. We’re grateful for the health and opportunity to support the people around us in new and different ways. WE. HAVE. GOT. THIS.
What are you doing differently?