Anahad O’Connor, Consumer Health Reporter at The New York Times

May 7, 2020


Q. You did an interview with us in 2019 about your role as a NYTimes journalist reporting on the intersection of health, nutrition, and science. Has your focus changed since the start of COVID-19?

As a reporter covering health, the pandemic has been all consuming. I typically write about a broad range of health issues. But today almost every health story is told through the lens of the pandemic and how it has changed and upended lives. I think that will be the case for some time to come.

Q. What has your experience been like as a journalist during the crisis?

It has been fascinating, challenging and at times sobering. I consider myself lucky to be in a position to write stories that inform millions of readers. But in a typical day there is a deluge of information coming in and it can be hard to stay on top of it all. It also means that I am thinking about the crisis and how it is impacting people 24/7.

Q. Your recent articles have looked at the impact of food habits on health. What wellness tips could you share with our readers?

With so many people concerned about their health, it’s important to know that there are simple things you can do to strengthen your immune system and protect your overall health. In this era of lockdowns and social distancing, it’s easy to spend some days entirely indoors. But I recommend spending at least 20 minutes outside each day walking or exercising in a safe environment. Research shows that simply being outside in a park can reduce stress and anxiety, so it’s good for your mental health. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which aids your immune system, as does aerobic exercise. Another critical component of good health is sleep: Try to get at least 7 hours a night. If you find yourself sleeping poorly lately due to stress or worries, try practicing mindfulness meditation. And lastly, try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices each day so you get all the nutrients your body needs to function properly. Eat the colors of the rainbow if you can.

Q. Your work also examines food accessibility and socioeconomic disparity in the US, and how those have been affected by the pandemic. How has the country responded to these challenges?

The pandemic unfortunately has highlighted and exacerbated a lot of social inequalities and health disparities. Covid-19 has caused a disproportionate number of deaths in communities that are poor, minority, and bereft of resources. I think it is still too early to know whether there has been any progress in addressing these disparities. But I know from speaking to officials and policy experts that studies looking at ways of addressing this are underway.

Q. Is there enough information to compare the US and France in this regard? 

Not at the moment. But I have seen that France is struggling with similar problems as it tries to contain its outbreak. Unfortunately, many poor and ethnically diverse regions of France have been hit the hardest. The banlieues have disproportionately high rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes and other conditions that make people more vulnerable to Covid-19, and many people who live there tend to work front-line jobs that put them in harm’s way, such as delivery workers, grocery and factory workers, and health aides. President Macron so far has pledged nearly $1 billion to help poor families weather the crisis. I’ll be watching closely to see how his efforts on this front play out.

You can read more by Anahad O’Connor at his New York Times profile page.

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