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Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Denis McDonough, in an 87–7 vote, as the new Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary McDonough is an unusual choice for the position. He is not himself a military veteran (he’s only the second non-veteran to serve as VA Secretary). He also lacks health care experience, which could be a challenge for the person charged with overseeing the single largest health care system in the United States.

So what makes him the right person for this job? He’s an experienced leader with a solid track record of delivering results, and he has…


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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — now more than 10 months and counting — we’ve rightly been lauding health care workers and other frontline workers as heroes. New Yorkers have taken to their balconies and porches at 7:00 p.m. to bang out symphonies of appreciation on pots and pans. We’ve hung thank-you signs in our windows and planted them in our front yards. We’ve contributed to programs that deliver meals to frontline workers both to boost their spirits and to support local restaurants. But our health care workers need more than cheers and free lunches during this stressful time.

People from…


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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” Latin for “horrible year.” Why? That was a year that three royal marriages dissolved, a fire destroyed much of Windsor Castle, and there were some tabloid scandals. With typical understatement, she said, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”

Frankly, that all seems like child’s play compared with what we’ve been through in 2020. Since the spring, we have had to face anxiety and uncertainty, hardships, and unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic brought great pain and suffering to New York. The…


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It appears that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will survive another near-death experience. It has the dubious honor of being the most challenged law in modern American history. It has faced more than 1,700 lawsuits in lower courts, and Congress has tried more than 70 times to repeal it. Since those assaults failed, the Trump Administration pursued a “death by a thousand cuts” strategy to undermine and weaken the law. Despite all that, the ACA has exhibited remarkable staying power. …


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It seems like we were forever being told that telehealth was going to be a bigger and bigger part of health care. We’d gotten used to doing everything else online — shopping, banking, keeping up with friends and family on social media — so health care couldn’t be far behind. The most optimistic acolytes said it would improve access, lower costs, and be convenient. And since millennials are thought to do almost everything online, telehealth was certain to grow. Except it didn’t. A 2019 survey found that only 8% of patients had used telehealth (although two-thirds said they were interested…


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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many harms: illness, death, and economic pain. Also high on that list is the increase in hunger. Look at the news and you’ll see long lines at food pantries and soup kitchens. You’ll hear about families struggling to put food on the table after losing employment and income. Surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau found that, in July, 12% of New Yorkers experienced food scarcity, meaning that they sometimes or often hadn’t have enough to eat in the past week; one-third of those reported having had enough food prior to the pandemic. …


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It has been more than four months since New York State was first locked down to curb soaring COVID-19 infection rates. Governor Cuomo called it “the most drastic action we can take” and it meant that non-essential businesses ceased operations and non-essential personnel were to remain in our homes except for things like grocery runs and other emergencies. At the time, New York had just over 8,500 cases and the alarm was blaring; we have now had more than 420,000 confirmed cases in New York.

Lockdown and other strict measures have worked to bring the virus under control in New…


A few years ago, in another blog post, I shared a photo of this poster that hangs in my office:

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“When our families landed on Ellis Island, they never imagined the door to opportunity could slam shut.”

It’s a reminder of the role immigrants have played throughout New York’s history. Immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities and contribute to the rich diversity of our State. And New York has played a special role in welcoming so many immigrants and refugees.

Although this poster was produced nearly 20 years ago, its message couldn’t be timelier. A seemingly endless…


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As we prepare to turn the page on 2019, I’m reflecting on this past year and thinking how 2020 can be even better. I’ve made some personal resolutions and I want to see the NY Mets win the World Series. Professionally, I want New Yorkers to be as healthy as they can be. If I had just three wishes to make that happen in 2020, here’s what I’d focus on:

1. Protect and expand access to healthy food. We all think about food a lot during the holiday season; it’s a central part of our culture. Food is also one…


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It was a proud moment for New York City when its public school system began implementing universal free school lunch on the first day of the school year in 2017. It was a hard won policy change thanks to the efforts and leadership of Community Food Advocates and other partners. It meant that all of the system’s 1.1 million students in every school and in every grade could eat for free, regardless of family income, and without shame or stigma. It meant that few or no kids would experience lunch-shaming and other punitive measures. …

David Sandman

David Sandman, Ph.D., is President and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation. www.nyshealth.org www.twitter.com/DavidSandman1

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