San Bernardino County Is 1st in California to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis


diverse fists to declare racism a public health crisis
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In San Bernardino County (50% Latino), the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 this week to make it California’s first county to adopt a resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis, the L.A. Times reports.

The resolution recognizes that racism “creates unfair disadvantages to some individuals and communities” and “results in disparities in family stability, health and mental wellness, education, employment, economic development, public safety, criminal justice and housing.”

In addition, the resolution commits to action, according to the report:

  • Enhance diversity in the county workforce;
  • Study existing county policies and practices “through a lens of racial equality to promote and support efforts that prioritize health for people of color”;
  • Plan collaborations between police and justice agencies to promote public confidence; and
  • Create an “equity element group” to address public concerns about police.

“We’re probably the only county we have in California, so far, doing this, and this is the beginning of what we’re doing. This is not the end result,” said Board Chairman Curt Hagman, the L.A. Times reports.

Why Are These Resolutions on Racism Happening?

Decades of unfair social, economic, and political systems have created inequitable communities that are disproportionately burdened by injury, disease, and premature death.

These unfair systems aren’t random. They are rooted in racism.

City to Declare Racism a Public Health CrisisSystemic racism makes it harder for Latinos and other people of color to get healthcare, housing, transportation, education, employment, healthy food, safe treatment by police, and more.

Racism qualifies as a public health crisis.

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 have declared hate crimes a public health concern.

Amid protests for racial/ethnic justice and an end to police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, U.S. local leaders are creating city and county resolutions to declare racism a public health crisis and commit to specific actions, as a first step toward lasting and meaningful change.

Where Else Are These Resolutions on Racism Happening?

Since 2019, at least 24 resolutions have been introduced or adopted, according to the Network for Public Health Law.

Several cities and counties across Ohio have been leading the way in recently adopting resolutions. That includes Cleveland, Columbus, and Franklin County.

Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) speaks about racism and protestors on the Ohio House floor on June 4 2020 Source Ohio Channel
Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) speaks about racism and protestors on the Ohio House floor on June 4, 2020. Source: Ohio Channel

Here are some other localities:

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis City/Marion County, Indiana
  • Cook County, Illinois
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

All 24 resolutions state a clear declaration that racism is a public health crisis or emergency. About 17 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 the Network for Public Health Law. “However, these resolutions can jump start critical efforts to assess the barriers to health created by current laws.”

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 get input from local social justice groups and advocates of color, and 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.


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