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Amid protests for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a rising number of U.S. local leaders are creating resolutions to declare racism a public health crisis. They also are committing to specific actions as a first step toward lasting, meaningful change.
Update 8/10/20: 120 cities, counties, state legislatures, and other governmental leaders have declared racism a public health crisis, as of Aug. 5, 2020, according to Michigan cartographer Alex B. Hill on Twitter.
“It’s a little thing to declare racism to be a public health crisis, but it’s a stake in the sand,” former American Public Health Association (APHA) President Camara Phyllis Jones said in a recent webinar, Bloomberg reports.
Where Are Resolutions on Racism Happening?
As of Aug. 10, 2020, entities in 20 states have made resolutions/declarations on racism as a public health crisis.
These include California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, according to a comprehensive list from the APHA.
Here is a list of some of the entities:
- San Bernardino County, Calif.
- Denver, Colorado
- Dekalb County, Georgia
- Indianapolis City/Marion County, Indiana
- Cook County, Illinois
- Governor of Detroit, Michigan
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Cleveland, Columbus, and Franklin County, Ohio
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Austin, Texas
- Dallas County, Texas
In June 2020, the Network for Public Health Law explored 24 resolutions on racism as a public health crisis.
These resolutions make a clear declaration that racism is a public health crisis or emergency. Most also reference policy with a commitment to assess existing policy or procedure or to advocate for new policies that improve health in communities of color.
“The language of these resolutions, alone, cannot repair the health deficit American institutions have left for communities of color,” according to group. “However, these resolutions can jump start critical efforts to assess the barriers to health created by current laws.”
Hill’s map shows 120 places or leaders that have made these declarations or resolutions.
This includes the Buncombe County Health and Human Service in Asheville, N.C.
“This widespread system of oppression is built through policies and practices that have created inequities in health, education, housing, employment, criminal justice and our other public institutions,” group chair Frank Castelblanco told the Citizen-Times. “In order to create a truly equitable community, we must dismantle these racist systems as intentionally as they were built and even more so.”
Why Are These Resolutions on Racism Happening?
Decades of unfair social, economic, and political systems have created inequitable communities that are disproportionately impacted by injury, disease, and premature death.
These unfair systems aren’t random. They are rooted in racism.
Systemic racial injustices affect a large number of people. Injustices threaten health over the long-term. They also require the adoption of large-scale solutions.
Many health organizations agree.
The American Public Health Association finds racism to be a barrier to health equity. The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians also have declared hate crimes a public health concern.
How Can Your City Adopt a Resolution to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis?
Download the free Salud America! “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack“!
The Action Pack will help you gain feedback from local social justice groups and advocates of color. It will also help you start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices. It will also help build local support.
Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio, created this Action Pack with input from several San Antonio-area social justice advocates.