Racism is a public health crisis that cannot be ignored

Over the past three years, racism has been declared a public health crisis in numerous communities across the United States. Milwaukee County was the first to declare it in 2019, with other governmental entities following suit, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Cuyahoga County. Often, governmental entities focus on addressing the social determinants of health as a way to combat racial and health disparities, which have been amplified by the pandemic. However, we cannot let this crisis remain a hot topic of conversation, singularly. These staggering statistics clearly show that this crisis is not going to end soon:

  • The pregnancy-related mortality ratio for Black women with college degrees or beyond was 6 times higher than their white counterparts with less than a high school diploma.
  • American Indians/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN)—compared to other races or ethnic groups— have the highest smoking tobacco rate. The smoking rate for AI/AN individuals was 21.9% compared to 16.6% among non-Hispanic whites.
  • Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Latinos(as)/Hispanics were 3 times more likely to die from diabetes in 2018.
  • In Cuyahoga County, white residents lived longer than Black residents by six years.

Facts like these call us to deep examination, and we will be highlighting racism as a public health crisis in new blog series throughout 2022.

Facts like these call us to deep examination, and we will be highlighting racism as a public health crisis in a new blog series throughout 2022.

Defining racism as a public health crisis

One common, cross-cutting theme that has emerged in all these priorities is how people of color suffer from worst outcomes in all aspects of health and human services due to racism. Because of this, The Center for Community Solutions has begun engaging on racism as a public health crisis first at the state-level, then on the local level. To that end, we at Community Solutions define racism as a public health crisis as a showing of how racism—especially systemic and interpersonal racism—places barriers on people of color from achieving the healthiest versions of themselves. This ultimately leads to shorter life expectancies and an increased exposure to physical and mental illnesses.

We need to act after passing declarations in order to make concrete changes across community and policy levels.

Examining racism as a public health crisis during 2022

To understand why racism is a public health crisis and how to fight it, we invite you to read our forthcoming blog series. The purpose of this series is to understand that this issue is broad, and in order to fully grasp the implications of these declarations, we will provide different perspectives on this topic to show that this crisis is multifaceted. As we present various analyses over time, please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list that umbrellas racism as a public health crisis in its entirety. Moreover, although it is important to declare racism as a public health crisis, it is not enough. We need to act after passing declarations in order to make concrete changes across community and policy levels.