Opinion: New statewide poll shows Coloradans’ worries and priorities as state moves toward recovery
Kyle Rojas Legleiter
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Coloradans are facing unparalleled health and economic setbacks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this crisis may be temporary for some, it’s slamming the door on stability and well-being for others — deepening inequities that keep health out of reach.
Before Colorado can move forward toward real progress and emerge out of the current challenging period, we need to know exactly where we stand.
That’s why The Colorado Health Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, asked 2,275 Coloradans from every corner of Colorado to tell us about their experiences, concerns and priorities through “Pulse: The Colorado Health Foundation Poll.”
We heard how this uniquely challenging year is straining Coloradans’ physical, mental and financial health, and we got a clearer picture of how widely Coloradans’ experiences and perceptions vary by race, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation and geography, among other demographics.
The picture that emerged from Pulse illustrates how Coloradans living on low incomes and Coloradans of color are bearing the brunt of this uniquely difficult year.
Coloradans making less than $30,000 were already struggling to make ends meet when the pandemic hit. Today, they are far less likely to be able to work from home and far more likely to be laid off and have wages or hours reduced.
Now 42% of low-income households in Colorado are worse off financially than a year ago. They’re worried about paying the rent or mortgage (52%), affording food (51%) and losing their health insurance (54%).
While all this is happening to families living on low incomes, a third of Coloradans making more than $100,000 annually say their financial situation is better than a year ago. The pandemic has given income inequality another growth opportunity.
Like low-income households, Coloradans of color have been especially hurt by COVID-19. Far more Black and Hispanic Coloradans are worried about losing their homes, their health insurance and their ability to afford food.
The other major story of 2020 — the national reckoning on racial injustice and police misconduct — has added to the pain.
One in five Hispanic Coloradans has had a negative experience with police in the last year; 42% of Black Coloradans have felt afraid of police. It’s no surprise that Black and Hispanic respondents were more likely to say racial bias and police misconduct were serious problems facing the state.
The inequities revealed in “Pulse: The Colorado Health Foundation Poll” are not new. But they are a call to action. It will take each of us to chip away at the disparities that coronavirus has widened and to fight the impacts of poverty and racism.
Far too often, these issues are positioned as partisan. But Coloradans’ concern about them is more broadly shared than we may think. Nearly three out of four Coloradans consider the economic impact from coronavirus to be an extremely or very serious problem.
Wide majorities support free COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines along with 72% support for mask mandates, including 53% of Republicans. Across partisan lines, Coloradans want government to ensure their neighbors have food for their families, access to health care and a place to call home. We have far more common ground than political rhetoric suggests.
But why is a health foundation polling Coloradans about affordable housing, police misconduct and financial insecurity? We believe better health starts with listening.
By engaging in this type of research and analysis, we are listening to Coloradans to uncover what’s making it easy or hard to have a good quality of life and expand opportunities to bring health in reach for everyone.
These results highlight the fact that your health is inextricably linked to your race, ethnicity and income, to the safety of your neighborhood and your ability to afford a home, to the quality of your local schools or whether your grocery store has fresh food.
At the foundation, we will use these findings to inform and reinforce communities’ work to bring health in reach for all Coloradans, especially those for whom it’s been the furthest away. We hope you’ll dig into these findings at copulsepoll.org to learn more about how your fellow Coloradans have been experiencing this tumultuous year.
Kyle Rojas Legleiter is the senior director of policy at the Colorado Health Foundation. He has worked in public health for more than 15 years and has lived in 17 different places within the state.
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